IT was the Munster Senior Hurling Championship when Limerick and Clare met in Semple Stadium on Sunday, but not as we knew it.
As if to ram home the point, there was noticeable visual differences – floodlights in Thurles (though to be fair, these were used when Cork lost to Waterford in the rain in the 2010 final replay), the yellow ball and empty stands.
It’s almost without doubt that the lack of spectators stripped some of the usual passion from the occasion and the high scoring rate gave the game the feel of a challenge match.
Clare’s tally of 1-23 resulted in a 10-point defeat on Sunday but it would have been enough to win the All-Ireland finals of 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Limerick’s 0-36 was something unheard of in a championship game between two elite teams.
The diminishing ratio of goals to points in hurling is something we have often lamented in this column and, while Sunday’s game is too small a sample size from which to draw a huge amount, it is definitely a good bit away from what we would see as the optimum in this regard.
Last year, there was a goal scored for every 16.75 points in the hurling championship; in 2014, it was one goal per 11.5 points and in 2004 it was one per 8.47.
A decade before that, in 1994, it was one goal for every 7.44 points. Represented on a graph, the increase would start off gently before a sharp move upwards.
Perhaps the fact there is a back door in the hurling, unlike in the football, added to the lack of proper championship intensity and the qualifiers will provide something different, but even so, point-fests are not what people want to see.
Scores should be have to be earned and high tallies do not necessarily equal better entertainment.
One potential change that could remedy things would be a heavier sliothar and this is something for which former Tipperary manager Babs Keating has long been a proponent.
After Cork beat Clare in the 2017 Munster final, he wrote: “I’ve been watching Munster finals since 1952 and I’ve seen some great games, I’ve seen games where there was no mistake made at all.
“I certainly think that, with the distance the ball travels nowadays, it lends itself to more errors and I do wonder how much better things would be if it only went 85 yards.”
When those errors are minimised, there is a far greater scoring area and Limerick showed how that can be capitalised upon.
It means that the concession of 1-23 – including 17 points, eight from play, for Tony Kelly – was merely an inconvenience, though it does perhaps give Tipperary some food for thought ahead of their semi-final meeting.
At the same time, Tipp are coming in cold whereas Limerick will have the benefit of a game played.
By the time those two meet on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they will know their final opponents as Cork take on Waterford on Saturday in Thurles for what we hope will provide some Hallowe’en happiness.
It’s pretty much impossible to know what to expect from Cork, though if you were being unkind you’d say that that’s the case no matter how often they have been playing and not just because it’s a first outing since March for Kieran Kingston’s side.
Re-appointed as manager in September of last year, Kingston has had to wait more than a year to get back in the championship saddle and with just one win needed to reach the Munster final it’s a great chance for Cork.
For players in their 30s like Anthony Nash, Séamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan, opportunities to win that elusive All-Ireland are reducing this would be as good a year as any to put things right in that regard.
It will be a different championship but it’s still a championship and everybody entering is aware of the terms of engagement, so there is no sense that victory this year would be in any way devalued.