Sunday 18 August 2019

McKaigue: There's no point in me saying last year didn't hurt - it was crippling

Slaughtneils Chrissy McKaigue. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Slaughtneils Chrissy McKaigue. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Here they are, still on the road. Christmas is coming into view and Chrissy McKaigue and Slaughtneil are still chasing glory.

It has been that way for a while now. Last year brought great success and nationwide admiration.

Reaching an All-Ireland club final in football and a semi-final in hurling earlier this year marked them out as truly special.

They are still alive in both codes and in the midst of such success McKaigue reckons it's important to keep perspective.

"It's so, so difficult in Ulster," McKaigue said ahead of Sunday's AIB provincial club SFC final clash with Cavan Gaels.

"Maybe people outside of Ulster, outside Derry, don't truly appreciate how competitive Derry club football is. For us to come out of Derry four years in a row - we're only the second team in Derry ever to do that. The other team was the great Bellaghy team in the '60s.

"We've gone on to reach three Ulster finals in four years which is a unique achievement in itself. So it's very easy to get caught up with, 'we haven't won that yet'.

"We have to be extremely aware that up until 2004 we had never won a county championship.

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"Sometimes perspective is the best thing to keep. Yes, we want to achieve the pinnacle but so do a lot of other top clubs.

"There is no way I'm getting too far ahead of myself.

"If we could get over Cavan Gaels that would be an absolute dream come true. We have no right to be talking about things any greater than that at the minute. We simply haven't earned that right."

They are still alive but McKaigue reckons they have been vulnerable at times this year.

The crossover between the hurling and football teams means fatigue is a factor, mentally as much as physically.

"(Fatigue) certainly was an issue before the Kilcoo and Omagh games, you would have seen that in our performances, no doubt about it.

"Going into the Kilcoo game I think we had a seven-day turnaround after a hurling game, maybe six days, it was definitely six days after the Omagh game.

"We played poorly in both, we really did. You couldn't question our grit or determination and all those things - they're a given. But you'd certainly question our quality in those two games. We just scraped through."

Last year's All-Ireland final is never too far from their thoughts.

"I probably watched clips (of the St Patrick's Day defeat to Dr Crokes) here and there but anything that's probably worth remembering you do remember from actually playing on the day.

"Look, there's no point in sitting here and spoofing and say, 'last year didn't hurt'. It was crippling, absolutely crippling - the ifs, would-haves and could-haves and all the rest of it.

"But the reality is, and it's been well documented, Slaughtneil has a real spirit and a real unity and it takes every bit of that to get back to an Ulster final after getting beaten in an All-Ireland final in the fashion we did last year. So I suppose the proof is in the pudding that way."

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