No such thing as perfect preparation for McKaigue and Slaughtneil

Nine of the 15 starting for Slaughtneil against St Vincent’s in football semi-final will probably start for club’s hurlers against Cuala

Slaughtneil’s Christopher McKaigue and goalkeeper Antoin McMullan. “We’ve been underdogs before, you just can’t read too much into that,” says McKaigue. Photograph: INPHO

Slaughtneil’s Christopher McKaigue and goalkeeper Antoin McMullan. “We’ve been underdogs before, you just can’t read too much into that,” says McKaigue. Photograph: INPHO

 

It pains him to admit it but there’s no such thing as perfect preparation for Christopher McKaigue and his Slaughtneil club colleagues.

Challenging for AIB All-Ireland club titles on three fronts – their camogie team is still alive and kicking too – ensures that neither setup can truly command the players’ full attention.

McKaigue suggests that nine of the 15 that will start for Slaughtneil against St Vincent’s in Saturday’s football semi-final will probably start for the hurlers in their semi-final against Cuala a fortnight later.

The Derry football defender himself doubles as captain of the hurlers and sums up how difficult it is to keep tabs on everyone by admitting he does not actually know how many players straddle both panels. “I’m sure it’s upwards of 20,” he says.

That the south Derry club, a dot at the foothills of the Sperrin mountains, draws from 300 or so local houses only makes their tale more remarkable. McKaigue has long since given up on aiming for perfection when preparing for games and settled on a sort of controlled chaos.

“There’s no doubt about it, you’re going into a game and you’re not as fresh as maybe you should be,” said the former Australian Rules player. “Or maybe you’re carrying a knock or whatever else. But we’ve kind of gone away from looking at that as a negative in our club because of the actual success we’ve had.

Perfect preparation

The Slaughtneil footballers reached the club final two years ago but were well beaten by Corofin, a result that stung even if the Galway champions were a special bunch.

“Of course they were, but that was still a poor reflection of what we were and who we were,” said McKaigue. “We were beaten by 10 points that day, and it wasn’t a nice place to be. We can’t use the excuse of Corofin being exceptional, which they were, because at this level you expect exceptional.”

Slaughtneil will face an exceptional side again on Saturday in Newry in the shape of St Vincent’s and their household names: Diarmuid Connolly, Tomas Quinn, Enda Varley, Ger Brennan, Michael Savage. It’s a long list.

“We’ve been underdogs before, you just can’t read too much into that,” said McKaigue. “The four teams left at the minute all have experience of being at this level before. That can’t be underestimated.”

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