The expected bear pit that is Division 2 was reaffirmed in Ennis this afternoon as Clare kickstarted their campaign in determined fashion to end Kildare's unblemished record by the bare minimum.

In front of just over 2,000 hardy souls in attendance, the hosts rolled with the punches and only hit the front for the first time in the 51st minute before a four minute brace of points from chief marksman Keelan Sexton proved enough for the Banner to relievedly prevail.

The inclement conditions were matched by a surprising indisciplined edge to proceedings that saw referee Barry Judge issue 15 cards over the 70 minutes.

Indeed, 11 of those were for the visiting side who crucially had Paul Cribbins sinbinned prior to the break before being permanently reduced to 14 players when Paddy Brophy received a second yellow in the 58th minute.

With the sides locked on level terms for the fourth time at 0-9 to 0-9, it would subsequently spur Clare on for victory as Sexton arrowed over from an acute angle in the next passage of play before adding an equally impressive clincher from the opposite wing four minutes later.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Jack O'Connor's Kildare did have opportunities to secure a valuable draw but amidst five minutes of additional time, a Kevin Feely free was all the Lilywhites could muster to come up agonisingly short.

It was all so different in the opening period when Kildare, backed by a sizeable wind, opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 advantage, two from Neil Flynn frees, by the 13th minute.

However, once Clare warmed to their task, they would prove obstinate opponents, with main threats Sexton, David Tubridy, Gearoid O'Brien and captain Eoin Cleary all getting in on the scoring action as the hosts kicked five of the last seven points to regain parity by the break at 0-6 to 0-6.

Even without the temporarily sidelined Cribbin, Kildare got back on the frontfoot as midfielder Feely grabbed successive points inside the opening five minutes of the new half.

However, the gutsy home side never relented and once Gearoid O'Brien reeled in the deficit, the pendulum swung increasingly in their favour as Cleary and Sexton grittily closed out Clare's first victory over Kildare since the 2016 Division 3 decider.

Clare: Stephen Ryan; Kevin Harnett, Cillian Brennan, Gordon Kelly; Sean Collins, Pearse Lillis, Dean Ryan; Ciaran Russell, Cathal O'Connor; Dermot Coughlan, Keelan Sexton (0-04), Gearoid O'Brien (0-03); Cian O’Dea, Eoin Cleary (0-03, 0-01f), David Tubridy (0-01, 0-01f).

Subs: Emmet MvMahon for O'Connor (51), Cormac Murray for Coughlan (59), Eoghan Collins for Ryan (70+2)

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, Mick O’Grady, Eoin Doyle; Con Kavanagh, Johnny Byrne, Shea Ryan; Kevin Feely (0-04, 0-03f), Liam Power; Paul Cribbin, Niall Kelly (0-01), Paddy Brophy (0-02); Jack Robinson (0-01), Daniel Flynn, Neil Flynn (0-02, 0-02f). 

Subs: Kevin Flynn for P. Kelly (22), Keith Cribbin for N. Flynn (HT), Jimmy Hyland for Robinson (45), Adam Tyrrell for Cribbin (56), John Tracey for N. Kelly (64)

Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo)