McKaigue gears up for more as Slaughtneil chase double
Mixing club and county while juggling hurling and football commitments made 2016 a demanding year for Slaughtneil's Chrissy McKaigue but there's no time or need for him to feel sorry for himself. And why would he?
Winning Ulster club titles in both codes, as well as the provincial camogie crown, was the culmination of a lifetime's work by the rural south Derry club and after returning home from a spell Down Under with AFL's Sydney Swans, it was particularly "special" for McKaigue.
Home is always where the heart is for the 27-year-old and after helping Ulster to Railway Cup football honours last weekend, it's the first time in months that he finally has a chance to sit back and soak up their remarkable achievements.
"To actually win the three titles in the same year is special. It probably portrays more than ever that we value the three codes, we promote our girls as well as our boys," the Derry defender says.
"I'm a firm believer that the identity and the association we have with our family and our people and our community and everything that's good about Slaughtneil, we take that onto the field. Sometimes talent goes out the window.
"It's more about a togetherness and a unitedness and I think Slaughtneil could definitely boast that they're the most united and probably together club in the country because we support each other in all codes every step of the way."
After creating history the last thing Slaughtneil wanted to do was "create history for the wrong reasons" in London but after negotiating St Kiernans in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final earlier this month, it sets up an even busier New Year.
Dublin powerhouses Cuala (February 4) and St Vincent's (February 11) lie in wait in the semi-finals and while McKaigue is quick to make sure his plea is not mistaken for moaning, with eight starting dual players on board he implores the GAA to make some allowances as they bid for further history.
"It's not going to be easy. Logistically, it's not easy to plan either in terms of how you prepare but we'd be hopeful that we can put a measure in place with the GAA that they could at least have a two-week break between the hurling and football All-Ireland semi-finals," McKaigue says.
"We'd be hopeful but we have to prepare for the worst-case scenario too. I'm very reluctant and very careful not to complain too much because we're in a very privileged position but we would like a wee bit of help from the governing body, that they could help us out.
"It would be a really positive message because we want to promote all Gaelic games. We want to promote all our boys and girls playing the codes that we have produced so I think that would be a strong message. Unfortunately, common sense isn't always a hot topic in GAA.
"I'm very proud to be part of the Club Players Association (CPA) and our biggest task is to try and fix the fixture chaos. I don't think a week delay would hurt anyone. It would put out a really strong message that the GAA wants to promote all its games. What better message than giving Slaughtneil a week leeway after the hurling semi-final to prepare for their football."
His work with the CPA is close to his heart and he feels the club championship is "the jewel in the GAA's crown" and alleviating fixture issues is top of his agenda and he looks to level the playing field between club and county.
With regard to Slaughtneil, McKaigue admits a comprehensive All-Ireland final defeat to Corofin in 2015 resulted in "a hangover year" but with the magnificent Mickey Moran still at the helm, they're now back on course.
"He's a dying breed because he bucks the trend of so many modern managers in the fact that he's very much a man for being out of the spotlight. He doesn't like media frenzy or anything like that there, he's a very private person," he says.
"He's also the most gentle soul you'll ever meet. But he's got that ruthless edge about him too. He's come into our club and created a model. A style of play and a set of behaviours and training standards that have raised us to a new level. What he has done for our club is just indescribable. He's just a club legend."