Naas 2-15 Shelmaliers 1-13 (AET)
Former Kildare captain Eamonn Callaghan rolled back the years with a vintage display at Croke Park to help secure a dramatic AIB Leinster club senior football championship final place for Naas.
In meltdown just weeks ago after losing their manager during the Kildare championship and now led by player/manager Eoin Doyle, Naas have bounced back in remarkable fashion to qualify for a first ever provincial final on 9 January.
Callaghan, just a year shy of 40, was instrumental in taking this game to extra-time and then helping to turn the screw.
The 39-year-old team skipper scored 0-06 in total, a haul that included the equalising point from a free five minutes into stoppage time to force extra-time and two more then in the additional 20 minutes.
Dermot Hanifin, son of the former Kerry player of the same name, copper fastened the win in extra-time with a terrific 80th minute goal.
Naas will look to emulate the achievement of Moorefield who won the Leinster title in 2017 while the prospect of a provincial double is also on the cards as the Naas hurlers are through to the intermediate final too.
Extra-time to come in the the @gaaleinster club SFC semi-final with Eamonn Callaghan kicking the levelling point for @NaasGAA against @shelmaliers - it finished 1-11 each - follow extra time on @RTE2 and @RTEplayer #rtegaa pic.twitter.com/Xi0wpXy85S— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) December 18, 2021
The victors scored the opening two points of the game, both of which came in the opening minute, but Shelmaliers quickly got their own bid for history up and running with an unanswered 1-02 blitz to take control of proceedings. They sought to become the first ever Wexford team to reach a Leinster senior club final.
In a game they were considerable underdogs in, Shelmaliers led from there until late on and gave an excellent impression of a team well used to such occasions.
In reality, this was only the club's third game outside of Wexford, their first coming in 2018 after their maiden county title success and their second earlier this month when they beat Naomh Mairtin of Louth.
Eoghan Nolan with a vital goal for @shelmaliers to give them a half-time lead of 1-06 to 0-06 against @NaasGAA in the @gaaleinster club SFC semi-final #rtegaa @RTE2 @RTEplayer pic.twitter.com/SZkEyZR5X4— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) December 18, 2021
Conor Hearne and Aaron Murphy hit the early Shelmaliers points before Eoghan Nolan, a goalscorer in the quarter-final win, netted again in the seventh minute with a palmed finish from close range following Hearne's hand-pass across from the left.
It was largely a game of tit-for-tat from there on with little to pick between two evenly matched teams though a gap of between one and three points remained between the sides until late in the second-half.
Naas struggled for a spell initially to get the ball out of their own half as Shelmaliers dominated at midfield and, in truth, the Wexford men probably should have made more of this dominance.
They still led by 1-04 to 0-04 at the first water break with Glen Malone, their free-taker and the official Man of the Match, going on to score three first-half points as they consistently punished indiscipline in the Naas defence.
County attacker Darragh Kirwan was the liveliest Naas forward though six different players shared out the six points they scored in the first-half as they hit the interval trailing by 1-06 to 0-06.
Points from Hearne and Murphy briefly nudged Shelmaliers four points ahead in the third quarter though the goal continued to separate them at the second water break, 1-09 to 0-09.
Darragh Kirwan with a priceless goal for @NaasGAA against @shelmaliers in the @gaaleinster club SFC semi-final #rtegaa @RTE2 @RTEplayer pic.twitter.com/a4jXx6vPtL— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) December 18, 2021
There was good news and bad news for Naas in the closing minutes, Kirwan dancing beyond two defenders to fire a badly needed 50th minute goal and substitute Brian Stynes then picking up a red card shortly after for a late challenge on James Cash.
A man down, and a point down at 1-10 to 1-09, Naas dug deep to eke out a leveller through Callaghan before falling behind again when Nolan pointed for Shelmaliers at the beginning of stoppage time.
It stayed a one-point game until Shelmaliers' Murphy hauled down Naas sub Cathal Daly and Callaghan did the needful from the resulting free in the 65th minute, forcing extra-time at 1-10 apiece.
Suddenly, Naas had precious momentum and as they were allowed to return to 15 players for extra-time, they also had a temporary personnel advantage as Shelmaliers lost county man Brian Malone to a black card late in normal time.
Naas dominated the additional period, outscoring Shels by 1-04 to 0-02 over the 20 minutes or so with Hanifin's goal late in the second-half of extra-time a beauty that finally set the seal on victory while Callaghan impressed too, pinching one excellent score off his left boot into the Hill 16 End.
Naas: Jack Rodgers; Eoin Doyle, Conor McCarthy, Pat Sullivan; Tom Browne, Brian Byrne (0-02), Paddy McDermott (0-01); James Burke, Shane Bergin; Sean Cullen (0-01), Eamonn Callaghan (0-06, 0-04f), Brian Kane (0-01); Darragh Kirwan (1-02), Paul McDermott (0-01), Luke Griffin (0-01).
Subs: Brian Stynes for Browne 29-f/t (temp sub), Jack Cleary for Bergin h/t, Cathal Daly for Cullen 37, Dermot Hanifin for Griffin 42, Colm Joyce for McDermott 48, Jack McKevitt for Sullivan 57. Ailin McDermott for red carded Stynes e/t, Cullen for Joyce 82.
Shelmaliers: Craig McCabe; Andre O'Brien, James Cash (0-01), Graham Staples; Glen Malone (0-05, 0-05f), Simon Donohue, Ross Banville; Sean Keane Carroll, Aidan Cash; Aaron Murphy (0-02), Brian Malone (0-01), Jody Donohue (0-01); Conor Hearne (0-02), Padraig O'Leary, Eoghan Nolan (1-01).
Subs: Mark Power for Aidan Cash 44, Eoin Doyle for O'Leary 49, Kyle Roche for Power 63. Corey Lawlor for Murphy 67, O'Leary for Nolan 79.
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).