Rangers’ manager Ronan McCarthy said he had no complaints with the result, and the 1,975 in attendance couldn’t have either. The Nire recovered from a six-point deficit with 20 minutes to go to lead in injury time, and their eventual win was just reward for their application.
It looked different for the West Cork side early on. The only goal of the first-half came when centre-back Robbie Kiely hit a long clearance which broke kindly for Hayes eight minutes into the game.
Hayes was outnumbered but kept his nerve to roll a calm finish to the corner of the net, and the score clearly boosted the West Cork men’s confidence.
By contrast, The Nire wouldn’t have been happy when looking back on their first-half, which yielded only four scores.
They came close to springing the lock to the Carbery defence more than once with cross-field deliveries but the Cork side were only really troubled once, when Dylan Guiry’s driving run gave him a sight of goal - his shot was deflected and Ronan Milner in the Carbery goal had to look sharp to make the stop.
In general Robbie Kiely’s marshalling of the Cork side’s defence kept them untroubled, and they could also depend on midfielder Brian Shanahan’s accuracy from frees - he hit two good ones to push the Cork side five ahead, a fair reflection of their display in the opening 30 minutes. Dylan Guiry, again breaking from deep, managed another Nire point, but John Hayes’s late, late free made it 1-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
Brian Wall (free) and sub. Kieran Fitzpatrick swapped scores on the resumption, but wing-back Jerry O’Riordan ranged forward for a fine score to put Carbery six ahead on 37 minutes. Then The Nire struck - a sweeping move ended with Gleeson rattling the crossbar from close range, but Liam Lawlor slotted the rebound expertly to the net. A Wall free and a fine Gleeson point from play and it was 1-7 to 1-8 with 20 minutes left, The Nire in full cry.
Brian Hodnett and Wall (free) swapped points before Gleeson levelled proceedings with 10 minutes remaining and the game anybody’s.
The Nire roared forward and Wall pointed another free to nudge his side ahead. John Hayes levelled matters in the 59th minute, but when Gleeson hit another fine point it looked enough for a dramatic Nire win.
With a last-gasp effort, however, Carbery sub. Seamus Hayes fisted over a dramatic equaliser.
In extra time the Waterford men surged ahead: Darren Guiry and Brian Shanahan swapped points, and then The Nire simply took over.
Sub Jake Mulcahy put his side one up, and then came the crucial score: a Gleeson cross broke kindly for Shane Walsh and he found the net calmly.
Gleeson hit another fine point and it was 2-14 to 1-12 at half-time in extra time.
Darren Guiry added yet another for The Nire on the resumption, but they needed a superb save by Tommy Wall to deny Seamus Hayes a certain goal on 73 minutes - Wall was injured, and substituted, in the process, but it was the play which made the game safe for his side.
On yesterday’s evidence - and given how close they came to beating Austin Stacks in the 2014 decider - their opponents in the final, Dr Crokes, should consider themselves forewarned. The Nire will bring a hard core of inter county experience in hurling and football to the table in two weeks’ time, as well as a sense of unfinished business. A danger combination.
J. Hayes (1-3, 0-3 frees); B. Shanahan (0-4, 0-2 frees); B. Hodnett (0-2); J. O’Riordan, K. Fitzpatrick, K. McMahon, S. Hayes (0-1 each).
B. Wall (0-6, 0-5 frees); C. Gleeson (0-5); L. Lawlor, S. Walsh (1-0 each); Darren Gary (0-2 frees); J. Mulcahy, Dylan Guiry (0-1 each).
R. Milner, M. Kelly, T. O’Rourke, S. Murray, J. O’Riordan, R. Kiely, P. Hodnett, B. Shanahan, J. Fitzpatrick, A. Jennings, B. Hodnett, K. McMahon, C. O’Donovan, C. O’Rourke, J. Hayes.
R. Hegarty for Murray (15); K. Fitzpatrick for C. O’Rourke (HT); S. Hayes for O’Donovan (43); M. Mennis for Jennings (44); A. Roche for Kelly (48); M. Ronan for T. O’Rourke (58); B. Kelly for Mennis (Start ET); M. Kelly for P. Hodnett (66); A. Jennings for B. Hodnett (HT ET); C. O’Donovan for B. Kelly (black card, 70).
T. Wall, J. Walsh, T. O’Gorman, D. Ryan, J. McGrath, C. Guiry, J. Barron, S. Walsh (c), D. Guiry, S. Lawlor, B. Wall, S. Ryan, L. Lawlor, D. Guiry, C. Gleeson.
K. Guiry and J. Mulcahy for C. Guiry and L. Lawlor (50); D. Nugent for K. Guiry (62); K. Guiry and L. Lawlor for D. Nugent and B. Wall (Start ET); C. Mulcahy for J. Walsh (75); D. Murphy for T. Wall (inj, 75); K. Brazil for L. Lawlor (80).
P. O’Sullivan (Kerry).