Tony Kelly showed his value to Clare as they were forced to dig deep before pulling away in the closing quarter to record a 4-20 to 0-16 win over Offaly in O'Connor Park on Sunday afternoon.
Back after his long lay-off with injury, Kelly was the main difference between the teams, though Ryan Taylor and sub Aaron Shanahan also made crucial interventions as Clare finally buried stiff Offaly resistance.
Kelly's class shone from the off, even if his eye was not fully in during the first half while his two goals, the second from a penalty, pushed Clare out of sight in the second half. Kelly ended up with 2-12, 1-05 from play.
He had a remarkable first half, causing terror in the Offaly defence in the opening quarter and he had four points on the board in 14 minutes.
He pointed from both sides of the field and Offaly were in trouble every time the ball went near him. He added three frees later in the half but also missed three placed balls that he would normally convert, two frees and a '65'.
Apart from Kelly's tour de force, Offaly did very well in the first half, easily playing their best hurling in what was a turbulent start to the league for them.
They competed well in every facet of play and made a lightening start with three quickfire points in two minutes. Clare hit back with three of their own in the next two minutes.
After this, the scoring rate ebbed away a bit but it still made for compelling viewing. Clare went 0-05 to 0-04 ahead after nine minutes but never threatened to open a gap in the first half.
The sides were level at 0-05 each and 0-06 apiece before Eoghan Cahill got two frees to put the home team 0-08 to 0-06 clear. Three frees from Kelly got Clare back in front and Cahill's 33rd-minute free made it 0-09 each at the break.
Offaly continued to hold their own for much of the second half and the final scoreline does not reflect this at all. Offaly were 0-12 to 0-10 ahead after 43 minutes but a quick 1-02 in a few minutes from Ryan Taylor put Clare 1-12 to 0-12 ahead.
Offaly got the gap back to a point, 1-13 to 0-15, but Langton's 58th-minute point was their first from play since the 16th minute, which showed where a big part of Offaly's problems were.
A clinically taken Tony Kelly goal in the 59th minute knocked the heart out of Offaly. He expertly converted a penalty four minutes later and the wheels fell off Offaly as Clare added six points and a fourth goal from Shane Meehan in the 73rd minute.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Rory Hayes, Conor Cleary, Paul Flanagan; Diarmuid Ryan (0-1), Jack Browne, Shane Golden (0-1); Patrick Crotty (0-1), Paddy Donnellan; Cathal Malone, Tony Kelly (2-12, 1 goal from a penalty and 7f), Ryan Taylor (1-2); Shane Meehan (1-1), John Conlon, Darren O'Brien.
Subs: Aaron Shanaher (0-2) for O'Brien (ht), Robyn Mounsey fof Donnellan (40 mins), Mike Gough for Cleary (53 mins), Peter Duggan for Golden (62 mins).
Offaly: Conor Clancy; Joey Keenaghan, Ciaran Burke, Paddy Delaney; David King, Ben Conneely, Killian Sampson; Eimhin Kelly (0-1), Eoghan Parlons; Brian Duignan, Liam Langton (0-1), Adrian Cleary; Eoghan Cahill (0-11, 10f), John Murphy (0-2), Jason Sampson.
Subs: Luke O'Connor (0-1, f) for Duignan (48 mins), Paddy Clancy for Parlon (60 mins), Luke Nolan for Cahill (65 mins), Padraig Cantwell for Burke (67 mins), Dara Maher for Jason Sampson (69 mins),
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).