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Chrissy McKaigue knows a Goodes thing

Derryman warns of Aussies' big threat

By john Campbell

Chrissy McKaigue will encounter a familiar face when he lines out with Ireland in Saturday's first International Rules Test against Australia at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan (7pm).

Adam Goodes is regarded as the highest-profile player in what is an indigenous Australian side and McKaigue will certainly be able to flash a warning to his colleagues as he played alongside the vastly-experienced Goodes for Sydney Swans.

It was during the 2009-2011 period that McKaigue pursued his career in Australian Rules football before returning to his native Derry where he was immediately drafted into the senior county squad by the then manager John Brennan for the 2012 campaign.

Having gained a detailed first-hand knowledge of Australian Rules football, McKaigue is aware that the men from Down Under will provide a stiff challenge to Ireland even though some of big names will be conspicuous by their absence.

"Adam Goodes (right) is regarded as one of the best players in the Rules code and he has experience of playing against Ireland before. The Aussies are all very good athletes and they relish the pace and physical intensity of the International Rules concept so we will know what to expect," said McKaigue.

These are certainly busy days for the Slaughtneil clubman. On Sunday he lined out in the Ulster club hurling championship semi-final against Lisbellaw and scored three points in his team's handsome 4-18 to 0-7 which ensured their passage into an Ulster final meeting with reigning provincial champions Loughgiel on Sunday week.

And while McKaigue – who never gives less than 100% commitment no matter what the code – clearly relishes an Ulster club hurling medal, his immediate focus is very much on helping Ireland carve out a Rules series triumph.

Named in manager Paul Earley's 23-man match squad, he is likely to be handed a key role in the Irish side because of his considerable experience of Australian Rules football.

"I'll do whatever I am asked by the manager. It's important that we get a win in this first game to set us up for the second Test in Croke Park on Saturday week," said McKaigue.

That will come just 24 hours before he is due to line out against Loughgiel but that's a bridge he is prepared to cross when he gets there.

While McKaigue's current commitments centre on hurling and the Rules concept, he emerged with considerable credit from Derry's campaign in the Allianz Football League and Championship earlier this year.

Pitched into the full-back berth by previous boss Brennan, he has retained the position during Brian McIver's stewardship to date and earlier this year was outstanding when Ulster won the inter-provincial championship during which he was deployed by manager Joe Kernan at left-full-back.

And McKaigue's selfless commitment, athleticism and skill mark him down as one of the best dual players in the country.

"He is an outstanding competitor and it is no surprise that he has been chosen in the Ireland squad for Saturday's game," said Derry PRO Dermot McPeake.

"The fact that he is now combining playing for Slaughtneil in the Ulster hurling championship and being involved in the International Rules series underlines his overall level of commitment.

"He has certainly been a bonus to the Derry defence since coming back from Australia as regular full-back Kevin McCloy had just retired and Chrissy was initially deployed there as a stop-gap measure but he has taken to the position like a duck to water," he added.

"The indications are that he will hold down the position for the foreseeable future and naturally we are all keen to see him do very well for Ireland in the Rules series."

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