McKaigue: I won’t lose appetite for title success
If Ulster was to appoint an ambassador who best epitomises the spirit, commitment and pride in the GAA then it could do a lot worse than nominate Chrissy McKaigue for the role.
As his county Derry come to terms with the revelation that a number of players have already made themselves unavailable for next season, and with numerous clubs striving to retain their playing resources, McKaigue is preparing for an Ulster Club Hurling Championship semi-final this Sunday before lining out in the Oak Leaf Senior Football Championship final the following weekend.
His club Slaughtneil may have ruled the roost in terms of both football and hurling in Derry in recent years, but any notion that their appetite for success may have been satisfied is put into sharp context by the straight-talking McKaigue.
“I always reflect on the years of nothingness that were endured by the generations that went before us in Slaughtneil,” stated the passionate McKaigue.
“Fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts of past players, and indeed current players, went through tough times to keep our club going. We might have had a bit of sporadic success here and there but nothing beats having proper structures and planning ahead.
“We are seeing the fruits of that now. Indeed, we are reaping the benefits of the sensible decisions taken by the good people who have been involved in our club.
“We are fortunate in that we have a really talented group of settled players now and we feel we owe it to those who have gone before us to bring as much success to the club as we possibly can.”
In an era in which the role of the dual player is virtually defunct in the rest of the country, McKaigue and his colleagues have gone about the business of stockpiling honours not for their own edification but as a gesture of gratitude for what they feel was the “immense work” of former officers and players.
Four Derry Hurling Championship and two Senior Football Championship medals have come his way since 2013 and as Slaughtneil set their sights on their Ulster Club semi-final against Armagh champions Middletown on Sunday, McKaigue, in typical forthright fashion, throws a new slant on the role of the dual player.
“There is a lot of talk now about there being more to life than GAA but people tend to forget what the GAA actually provides for people like me. We in Slaughtneil are truly humble and thankful to recognise how lucky we are,” insisted McKaigue.
“The biggest thing that underpins the role of the dual player must always be common sense. Our hurling manager Mickey McShane and football boss Mickey Moran along with their mentors always apply a common sense approach.
“There’s no such nonsense as training seven nights a week.
“There’s always a bit of give and take. The players realise that and you always make sure that you are properly primed for match days.
“I think it has to be strongly emphasised that we have superb managers, a great chairman and a good committee all of whom do immense work.
“We have a tremendous band of supporters so why wouldn’t we as players be pushing ourselves to the maximum for them? It’s the least we can do and I can tell you we are proud to do it.
“At the minute we are certainly on the right path and we aim to stay on that path.”
Slaughtneil’s dominance of the main two GAA codes in Derry has not quite been complemented by sustained success in the Ulster and All-Ireland club spheres, but McKaigue is hoping that new peaks can be scaled sooner rather than later.
“The whole focus for now is on Middletown on Sunday and then we have Loup in the Derry football final on Sunday week,” he added.
“These will certainly be two hugely testing games for us but we are well acquainted with dealing with big challenges at this point in time.”