Clare left Walsh Park with the brace of points despite being put to their pin of the collar in the closing stages of a Munster Championship clash with Waterford that, in truth, they largely dominated.
Leading by six points at the break, Clare found themselves fighting an unlikely rear-guard action in the closing stages against a rejuvenated Waterford side who raised their intensity levels a touch too late to pull off an unlikely reversal.
Ryan Taylor’s point in the third minute of five additional minutes left Clare two clear and despite a stunning Tommy Ryan point from the next Deise attack, the Banner did enough to ensure they began this campaign with victory.
In blazing sunshine before a 11,012-strong gate, Waterford opened the scoring through Austin Gleeson but two minutes later, Clare took a lead they would not relinquish between then and the interval.
The fleet-footed Shane O’Donnell slipped the sliothar inside the 13-metre line to the unmarked John Conlon, who rounded Stephen O’Keeffe to steer the ball into an empty Town End goal.
Peter Duggan converted his first free a minute later and the home support were left gasping by Waterford’s next attack when Stephen Bennett’s deft flick from Kevin Moran’s cross-field pass, inched wide of Donal Tuohy’s left-hand post.
Tony Kelly scored the first of three opening half points after six minutes, only for Conor Gleeson to immediately reply from wide on the standside flank.
Stephen Bennett opened his account in the eighth minute following a pinpoint Stephen O’Keeffe free, with Peter Duggan replying in kind 60 seconds later. Austin Gleeson doubled his tally in the 12th minute following Stephen Bennett’s short free.
Bennett turned over his first free four minutes later before Waterford lost captain Noel Connors through injury in the 18th minute. Podge Collins and Tony Kelly, the latter with the class one associates with any Hurler of the Year, sent Clare a goal clear before Stephen Bennett reduced the Deise’s arrears with a 20th minute free.
Shane Bennett shrugged off a heavy challenge to brilliantly find his range come the 24th minute. Ninety seconds later, Jamie Barron steered a fine point between the posts to leave just the minimum between the teams.
But between then and the break, Clare went through the gears, scoring five of the half’s remaining six points through Shane O’Donnell, John Conlon, Tony Kelly and a brace of superb Peter Kelly frees. Waterford’s sole reply came from the stick of Mikey Kearney and by then it looked like there could be only one winner.
A brace of Stephen Bennett points in the 42nd and 43rd minutes narrowed the margin before Peter Duggan landed another free. But a further Bennett brace in the 44th and 47th minutes, followed by a stunner from Austin Gleeson raised the home voices to leave just a goal separating the sides.
Duggan and Bennett traded further frees in the 53rd and 55th minutes before Tony Kelly produced another party piece point come the 57th minute. Clare substitute Aidan McCarthy made an instant impression when pointing 12 minutes from time before Stephen Bennett’s 63rd minute free was deflected over the Clare crossbar to leave four points separating the teams.
Donal Tuohy dived to his right to send Austin Gleeson’s 68th minute free wide before Stephen Bennett’s free flew was deflected over the bar as the game entered its final regulation minute. Substitute Maurice Shanahan turned over a point in the 71st minute before another Bennett free left two between the sides.
Waterford’s moment of the match was produced by Austin Gleeson when he brilliantly caught Stephen O’Keeffe’s puck-out to the send the ball between the uprights. Just a point separated the teams, and one felt Waterford required the next score. But up popped Ryan Taylor to ensure Clare’s trip home felt that little bit shorter.
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S McNulty, C Prunty, N Connors; Philip Mahony, T De Burca, K Moran; J Barron (0-02), C Gleeson (0-01); A Gleeson (0-04), M Kearney (0-01), Pauric Mahony; Shane Bennett (0-01), Stephen Bennett (0-11; 0-08f, 0-1 65), P Hogan.
Subs used: S Fives for N Connors, T Ryan (0-01) for P Hogan, J Prendergast for Barron, P Curran for Shane Bennett, M Shanahan (0-01) for Pauric Mahony.
Clare: D Tuohy; P O’Connor, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, C Galvin, D Fitzgerald; S Golden (0-01), C Malone; P Duggan (0-08; 0-07f), T Kelly (0-05), D Ryan; S O’Donnell (0-01), J Conlon (1-01), P Collins (0-01).
Subs used: A Shanagher for Collins, A McCarthy (0-01) for Golden and R Taylor (0-01) for Ryan.
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)