CHURNING skies and flaky morals in Thurles.This was a Munster final disfigured at birth. Five minutes of mayhem to loosen nerve-ends that brought to mind the old ``Hell's Kitchen'' cry when a sliothar clears the stand. ``Hurl away boys, never mind the ball.''
Euphemisms cluttered the postcript. They always do when hurling men cross the thin line. Naked violence is tarted up as ``handbagging.'' No-one's fooled but, in gaeldom, the code of omerta out-lives flesh and bone.
Come with me into Willie Barrett's garden. He has yet to drop the ball from his palm but, already, bad blood flows in little tributaries. The crowd, vacuum-packed around him, keeps Willie informed with little bomb clusters of agitation.
Barrett looks behind him to see Anthony Daly on his bum. As he wheels the other way, Ken McGrath fosbury flops to the canvas. Willie must feel like a man sent mine-sweeping with a lawnmower. He's edgy and it shows.
The ball goes in and thunder peals. A linesman flags frantically for his attention. Brian Greene and Jamesie O'Connor need calming. Willie wags his finger. He might as well threaten the teams with homework.
All around us, the meaness spits and fizzes. Stephen Frampton's scarlet helmet goes flying in a collision and is left unretrieved on the half-way line. For two surreal minutes, the war is waged in a ten metre radius around the helmet. Frampton hasn't time to sneeze, let alone reclaim his property.
Now Willie has a name for preferring play to flow like a mistral even if it is throwing up occasional flecks of spite. But this is no mistral. Willie needs a UN delegation here, not a whistle.
Three minutes in, Brian Lohan and Michael White go nose to nose, their helmets and elbows colliding. As Barrett rushes to the riot scene, Colin Lynch is seen to whip his hurl across Tony Brown. Anarchy reigns.
Eventually, Lohan and White get the reprimand of an early shower. But Lynch's crime doesn't seem to trespass Willie's book of commandments. The medics patch up Browne and he steps back over to his Lissycasey shadow. Five minutes in, Thurles might as well have a foreclosure sign on the gate.
The home of hurling? Not this day it ain't.
Replays sometimes do this. They stitch toxins into the bloodstream. Familiarity and contempt lock arms and honour is squeezed out of the picture.
IT happened for six minutes yesterday and, thereafter, the game was never even in the same postal code as its predecessor.
True, it was a day for oil-skins. But the quirks of the weather gods didn't turn Semple Stadium however briefly into a haunted house. That was down to men and the malevolence within.
We now know that Clare's midweek team announcements reveal little but the colour scheme they will be wearing. They are unrepentant about that. When the world was their friend, Clare lacked the important accessory of trophies.
Now they ride the wind and smile. Winning keeps their conscience clear.
Ger Loughnane might play too many mind games for some folk but it is hard not to be taken with his clarity of purpose. Loughnane doesn't apologise for a demeanour that beckons confrontation.
He patrols the tramlines impervious to official dictat, stoking his team like a bonfire.
Leaving Thurles a week ago, Clare were needled by a sense that Waterford had jostled and jabbed them a bit too brazenly. Loughnane went to work in the laboratory of Clare's mindset.
``There was a totally different attitude coming down today,'' he argued in the aftermath.
``Completely different. All during the week, but especially last night and this morning. I've never been so tense myself. Even when I was playing, even going to All-Irelands.
``There was a single-mindedness. It was as if the whole team had just one mind that we were going to battle today like never before. That was the attitude. And I suppose it was the cause of the row too at the start. Everybody was so keyed up.
``I know a big deal will be made of it when it's shown on telly. All kinds of nutters will be ringing in the radio stations about it.
``But everyone got it out of their systems and it became a sporting game, hard knocks given and taken.
``There's no doubt we felt Waterford had put it up to us physically the first day. I mean the first belt Anthony Daly took last week, there was no response. No response from anyone.
`AGAINST Cork, there was a small thing at the start and everybody tore in from all directions. That was what we had again today.
``We weren't going to be pushed around. We were determined to hurl from the soles of our feet to the tops of our head. And anything else that we had as well, we were going to throw it in.''
On such days, it is doubtful if there are fifteen human beings alive who can weather Clare. Waterford tried manfully but, even with Lohan sidelined, Loughnane's men retained that inscrutable air of men courting destiny.
The twine of Waterford's challenge held until five minutes after the resumption when Seanie McMahon's '65' seemed to torque viciously on landing in the square and Brendan Landers watched helplessly as it knifed past him.
That score put Clare 1-7 to 0-6 ahead and, as Gerald McCarthy observed, ``Waterford's problems became paramount after that.''
Slowly the scores accumulated as Clare turned the screw and, when Davy Fitzgerald swept aside Paul Flynn's 60th minute twenty-one, the goalkeeper's celebration confirmed that this battle was over in all but small print.
We can take it, this was a natural impulse. Clare's hurling in the closing quarter was a composite of power and cunning, Niall Gilligan rifling home a wondrous goal.
THIS was decorative stuff, Waterford's gloomy hordes already drifting off into the tea-time murk, brooding about Croke Park next Sunday. It may take a miracle of man-management for McCarthy to lift them from this misery.
Loughnane has no such worries.
You could see that in the pinched expression of Anthony Daly as he lifted Munster's Championship trophy for the third time in four years. ``We refuse to yield,'' bellowed Daly.
And the air-horns howled like killer bees.
MY PLAYER RATINGS Clare: D Fitzgerald 7, F Lohan 7, B Lohan (not on long enough), B Quinn 7, L Doyle 8, S McMahon 9, A Daly 8, C Lynch 7, O Baker 9, D Forde 7, F Tuohy 6, J O'Connor 7, N Gilligan 8, C Clancy 5, A Markham 6. Subs: F Hegarty 7, G O'Loughlin 7. Waterford: B Landers 7, B Flannery 8, T Feeney 7, M O'Sullivan 7, S Frampton 7, F Hartley 7, B Greene 7, T Browne 8, P Queally 6, D Shanahan 6, K McGrath 6, D Bennett 7, M White (not on long enough), A Kirwan 6, P Flynn 6. Subs: S Daly 6, B O'Sullivan 6.