by Eoin Brennan in Kinnegad
A remarkable tally of 2-8 from Niamh O'Dea ensured that Clare would secure the opening points of the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship over Down in Kinnegad on Sunday afternoon.
The former Intermediate Player of the Year nominee was a pivotal leader alongside captain Laurie Ryan for a Banner side that led from start to finish, eventually pulling away with the aid of the conditions in a dominant second half display.
Down, despite only having 19 players at their disposal, battled gamefully throughout on the counter-attack, especially in the opening half when an injury-time Jessica Foy goal slashed the half-time arrears to just three.
However, although Kyla Trainor led the Ulster side's challenge up front, they would only score 1-1 from play over the hour in contrast to Clare who only had one point of their 2-17 total from frees.
Dual star O'Dea kicked three early points while also setting up another for Eimear Keane as Clare eased into a 0-5 to 0-1 advantage by the tenth minute. And while Down were unlucky not to raid for a goal in that period when a Jessica Foy shot cannoned off the post, the 2014 All-Ireland champions would remain in touch through frees from Natasha Ferris and Foy at 0-5 to 0-3 by the end of the opening quarter.
Down were reduced to 14 when Trainor was sinbinned in the 18th minute and Clare would take full advantage as O'Dea finished to the net four minutes later followed by points from Caoimhe Harvey and Fidelma Marrinan.
However, the determined Trainor would make an immediate impact on her return to tee up Foy for a 31st minute goal that provided a timely boost at 1-7 to 1-4 by the interval.
That was as good as it would get for the Ulster side as Clare re-emerged to kick 1-4 without reply in the third quarter, 1-3 of which stemmed from O'Dea who intercepted a pass from goalkeeper Aisling Burns to fire to an empty net in the 42nd minute at 2-11 to 1-04.
And with Down suffering a second yellow card, that was essentially game over as the Banner were able to match any potential backlash centred around Foy's frees before finishing with the last three points through O'Dea, substitute Aine Kelly and Eimear Keane to cement a merited 11 point win.
Clare: N O'Dea 2-8 (1f), F Marrinan 0-3, E Keane 0-3, C Harvey 0-1, C O'Leary 0-1, A Kelly 0-1
Down: J Foy 1-6 (6f), N Ferris 0-2 (2f), B McKee 0-1
Clare: G Lynch; L Egan, E O'Gorman, G Harvey; R Considine, L Egan, C O'Leary; E O'Connor, L Woods; C Harvey, E Keane, O Devitt; F Marrinan, N O'Dea, C Blake
Subs: S Ni Chonnaill for Egan (28), A Kelly for Blake (40), C Hester for O'Gorman (44), A Keane for Marrinan (50), A Morrissey for G Harvey (56)
Down: A Burns; L Duffy, O Boyle, C Laverty; C Moane, C Mulvena, A Greene; K McKay, K Trainor; M O'Boyle, G McClean, J Foy; B McKee, N Ferris, M Doherty
Subs: S Doherty for McClean (HT), J Fitzimons for McKee (52), A Flynn for O'Boyle (55), M McCann for Moane (57)
Referee: Des McEnery (Westmeath)