By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at the K Club
Clarke's emotional triumph captured hearts at the K Club
Sweden's Henrik Stenson robbed Darren Clarke of a fairytale ending but home fans were still in raptures as Europe strolled to a 18½-9½ victory over America in the 36th Ryder Cup at the K Club.
Europe led 10-6 going into the singles after winning each of the first four sessions 2½-1½, and triumphed in eight matches and halved one to equal the record score of Oakland Hills two years ago.
Stenson's win over fellow rookie Vaughn Taylor on the 15th took Europe to 15 points, half a point more than they needed to ensure they lifted the cup for an unprecedented third straight time.
Captain Ian Woosnam had sent Northern Ireland's Clarke out in the seventh match with a view to him possibly holing the decisive putt and completing a remarkable comeback from personal tragedy.
The 38-year-old lost his wife Heather to cancer last month and needed a captain's wildcard to make the side.
He received an emotional reception on the 1st tee on Friday and was in tears again as the crowd saluted him after a 3&2 win over Zach Johnson.
But such was Europe's dominance in the singles that the crucial blow fell to Stenson in the match behind him.
"It's very emotional. I just can't say enough about my team, they have played absolutely fantastic," said Woosnam.
"I'd like to say thanks to the crowd. It was fantastic on the 1st and they have really got behind us. I knew it was going to be loud but I didn't know it would be as good as this. The crowd have made history this week.
Woosnam's captaincy was a key feature of Europe's win
"I can pass the captaincy on to Nick Faldo now and he can try for four in a row."
Clarke, who shared a heartfelt embrace with Woosnam on the 16th green, added: "This is as good as it gets.
"My team has been unbelievable and the support the Americans have shown me has been incredible.
"The support from the crowd is something that I will cherish forever."
Europe have now won five of the last six Ryder Cups, the only blemish coming at Brookline in 1999 when they also led 10-6 going into the singles before a fired-up American side fought back to win 14½-13½.
American captain Tom Lehman said: "I need to tip my hat completely to the European team. Our team came very ready, but maybe we weren't ready enough."
Europe's eight-time Ryder Cup talisman Colin Montgomerie kicked off the final day in torrential rain against David Toms, but the Scot was impervious to the weather and won 1 up in bright sunshine at the 18th, having never been behind.
Effervescent Spaniard Sergio Garcia, bidding to win all five matches, went off second but came home before Montgomerie after a 4&3 defeat by the in-form Stewart Cink, who fired seven birdies.
But the shackling of Garcia was no early warning of an American resurgence as the scoreboard showed a palette of blue numbers, indicating European players leading their matches.
World number one Tiger Woods had looked out-of-sorts all week and was forced to fend off a barrage of criticism that he was not a team player.
But he ended with three wins out of five after dispensing with Swedish rookie Robert Karlsson 3&2.
Soon after, England's Paul Casey, who won his foursomes match with a hole-in-one on Saturday, beat world number three Jim Furyk 2&1 having led by four after 10.
Another Englishman David Howell added the next European point with a dominant 5&4 win over American rookie Brett Wetterich.
Europe enjoy the moment as they get their hands on the trophy
And when Luke Donald beat Chad Campbell 2&1 just minutes later, it was set up for Clarke to take centre stage, only for Stenson to steal the limelight.
Protocol dictates that the other players must continue with their matches, and in the last group, Scott Verplank fired a hole-in-one at the 14th, the same hole where Casey achieved his ace.
Dubliner Paul McGinley, who holed the winning putt in 2002, halved with American rookie JJ Henry before Verplank beat local favourite Padraig Harrington 4&3.
Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal downed world number two Phil Mickelson 2&1 and England's Lee Westwood rounded off the rout with a 2 up triumph over Chris DiMarco.