A somewhat strange and surreal atmosphere filled an empty Semple Stadium on Monday evening.
Here were two teams contesting a Munster U20 championship fixture that was in danger of becoming redundant shortly after the sounding of referee Thomas Walsh’s final whistle.
Full time was called around 8.50pm, 10 minutes or so before Taoiseach Michéal Martin was to take to the podium at Government Buildings to provide official confirmation, among other items, on what sports had survived the move to Level 5.
But while there was no mention of sport in his speech, clarity arrived later in the evening, and it was positive news for the GAA and their inter-county competitions.
With the inter-county scene managing to keep its head above water amid a raft of new restrictions, Tipperary's U20 hurlers, as reward for their awesome second-half showing, will be on the road to Dungarvan to face Waterford in next Monday’s Munster semi-final.
Having looked to be in a spot of bother at half-time when behind by 0-10 to 0-6, Tipperary owned the second period, a half an hour during which they outscored their opponents by 1-13 to 0-2. Included in this was a run of 11 points without reply as the reigning All-Ireland champions assumed total control of proceedings.
Clare's challenge fell to pieces upon the restart. They simply had no answer to Tipperary’s step up in intensity. The Banner went the first 27 minutes of the second-half without adding to their tally.
As you’ll have gleaned from the above, it was all Tipperary in the second period. Three from Conor Bowe and a Kevin McCarthy point had the hosts level at 0-10 apiece on 38 minutes. They also struck five wides during this period, a sign of their growing dominance. Bowe edged them in front on 42 minutes and they never looked back thereafter. Devon Ryan capped the victory when dispatching a penalty late on.
Bar a seven-minute spell early in the first half when Tipp clipped four unanswered points and also fired a goal shot off the post, Clare were the better side in the opening half.
Their 0-10 to 0-6 interval lead had much to do with the outstanding contributions of half-forward Cian Galvin and full-forward Mark Rodgers, this pair supplying 0-7 of Clare’s first-half total. Rodgers, in particular, was in electric form and proving very hard to tie down where the Premier rearguard was concerned.
The visitors to Thurles started the brighter, Connor Hegarty, who was a late replacement for Shane Meehan, and William Halpin firing them into an early lead.
Then arrived Tipperary’s most productive spell of the half. The impressive Andrew Ormond sniped a pair to level proceedings before drilling a low shot off the butt of the post. Conor Bowe and Gearóid O’Connor (free) subsequently doubled Tipperary’s advantage come the 10th minute, but they’d add only two further scores to their tally across the remainder of the half and went a 14-minute period without raising a flag of any description, during which Clare reeled off five without reply to surge 0-9 to 0-5 clear.
That was as good, however, as their evening got. Clare's wait for a first win at this grade since 2015 continues.
C Bowe (0-7); D Ryan (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); A Ormond (0-3); K McCarthy, S Ryan (0-2 each); G O’Connor (0-1 free).
C Galvin (0-5, 0-3 frees); M Rodgers (0-4, 0-1 free); R Mounsey, W Halpin, C Hegarty (0-1 each).
A Browne (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams); J Ryan (Arravale Rovers), C Whelan (Carrick Davins), É McBride (JK Brackens); F Purcell (Drom-Inch), E Connolly (Cashel King Cormacs), R McCormack (Borris-Ileigh); K Maher (Borris-Ileigh), K McCarthy (Toomevara); G O'Connor (Moyne-Templetuohy), D Ryan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), S Hayes (Kiladangan); K O’Kelly (Kilruane MacDonaghs), A Ormond (JK Brackens), C Bowe (Moyne-Templetuohy).
S Ryan (Templederry Kenyons) for Hayes (HT); J Devanney (Borris-Ileigh) for O’Connor (46); K Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane) for Purcell (56); M Hackett (Moycarkey-Borris) for Ormond (60, inj); D Flannery (Kiladangan) for McCarthy (64, inj).
C Broderick (Clarecastle); P Donnellan (Broadford), A Mungovan (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield), J McGrath (Clonlara); M Gough (Smith O’Brien’s); D McMahon (Clonlara), D Lohan (Wolfe Tone na Sionna); A Moriarty (Clonlara), G Cahill (Corofin); C Galvin (Clarecastle), R Mounsey (Ruan), W Halpin (Tulla); D Cahill (Corofin), M Rodgers (Scariff), C Hegarty (Inagh/Kilnamona).
D Healy (Clarecastle) for Mungovan (16 mins); C Burke (Clonlara) for D Cahill (40); E Wallace (Clarecastle) for G Cahill (44); K Keane (Corofin) for Mounsey (49); K Keane (Corofin) for Gough (52).
T Walsh (Waterford).