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On the rise: Chrissy McKaigue has a double chance of glory with the Slaughtneil hurling and football teams in the coming weeks

On the rise: Chrissy McKaigue has a double chance of glory with the Slaughtneil hurling and football teams in the coming weeks

Lorcan Doherty

On the rise: Chrissy McKaigue has a double chance of glory with the Slaughtneil hurling and football teams in the coming weeks

Chrissy McKaigue experienced a short-lived involvement with Derry in the Ulster and All-Ireland football championships this year but he is certainly making up for this through Slaughtneil's stunning consistency in their football and hurling championships.

Tomorrow the progressive Derry club will meet Antrim champions Ruairi Og, Cushendall in the Ulster hurling championship semi-final at Owenbeg and then next Sunday they will confront reigning title-holders Ballinderry in the county football final.

All this, too, against the backdrop of a fascinating 2015 Ulster football championship draw that has yet again pitted Derry against Down in the quarter-finals.

For McKaigue, who skippered Derry to their O'Fiaich Cup triumph last December before becoming one of their most consistent performers in league and championship, the current end of season splash of activity offers the distinct possibility of more honours.

But realism rather than optimism tends to be the prevailing element within the Oak Leaf county just now.

A series of false dawns in football and hurling - county hurling boss Ger Rogan departed during the summer - has served to trim expectations both at domestic and provincial level.

Tomorrow Slaughtneil will go in against Cushendall as underdogs, next Sunday they will be viewed as the lesser lights when they confront Ballinderry and looking ahead to 2015, the prospects of Derry ending a 17-year Ulster title famine must be considered slim given that Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh and Monaghan will be in the box seats.

Little wonder, then, that players like McKaigue, perhaps the best dual code exponent in the province on current form, have learned to tread cautiously in pursuing their ambitions.

"Obviously it's great that Slaughtneil are in the Ulster club hurling semi-finals and in the county football final but when you advance this far you want to achieve more," says McKaigue.

"We have belief in our ability but we recognise too that at this stage of the year we are going to come up against strong opposition in both codes because this is when trophies are decided."

McKaigue had hoped that Derry might enjoy an extended championship campaign this year but an early exit to eventual champions Donegal in the Ulster series and a shock loss to unsung Longford in the qualifiers brought the curtain down on what proved a forgettable campaign.

In 2013, Derry hosted Down at Celtic Park in the Ulster football championship and surprisingly lost before avenging this result in a subsequent qualifier meeting.

Now that the teams have been paired again in 2015, the flame of hope has been rekindled and McKaigue believes that should Slaughtneil be capable of coming up trumps in the Ulster club hurling series and perhaps win the county football crown, this could prove a good omen.

It's a theory supported by Derry officials, many of whom are understandably frustrated by the lack of success at the top level.

"Everyone will be looking to see how Slaughtneil and Cushendall perform because people in Derry already have their sights fixed on Down next year," points out PRO Dermot McPeake.

"We have had to watch other counties lift the honours since then and we like to think that maybe in 2015 it will be our turn to do the business."

Belfast Telegraph