Chrissy McKaigue enjoying new Slaughtneil role
By Cian O’Connell
This is familiar territory for Chrissy McKaigue and Slaughtneil. High stakes club matches in Derry and Ulster have been on the agenda for much of the past decade.
Sunday’s provincial hurling decider against Dunloy at the Athletic Grounds is another critical encounter for two proud outfits.
Recently, though, McKaigue has commenced working as a games promotion officer for Slaughtneil. These are exceptional days for Slaughtneil, but McKaigue accepts that the challenge is to remain relevant.
“To me that is a brilliant way of putting it,” McKaigue responds. “To try to remain relevant is the motivation of any club, never mind our own. The last decade has been brilliant, let's pull no punches, there has been disappointing days in the last decade also.
“You probably caveat that with the disappointing days that came a lot of the time were on the biggest stage. So you're doing something right to get to the biggest stage or to be knocking around the latter stages of competitions consistently. That is no mean feat.”
In various codes Slaughtneil have found a way to generate momentum, to maximise the playing resources available.
“We aren't a club that is massive,” McKaigue adds. “We are not a massive town club or city club - anything like that. We are very good at utilising the resources that we have at our own disposal. It has been a fair sign of our sustainability and consistency.
“It hasn't been co-incidental, the thought that went into it has been big. Now with me being in the position of GPO, it really allows me to hammer it out, looking at the structures in the club, looking at how we can educate our coaches, help our coaches, creating that pathway for our underage players.
“Young Ruairí Ó Mianáin, Peter McCullough, Shay Cassidy, Jack Cassidy, Eamonn Cassidy - and there is more - them boys I have been working with for the last half a year or so, maybe even more in schools being with them.
“You just have to be really conscious about developing young players to come through because you don't want your senior team stagnating. That is one thing we have always been conscious of, creating the talent to come in to help out. There is always a day when they are needed.”
McKaigue is relishing the job. “I can absolutely say I've never enjoyed a job more than the last three or four months in this role,” he replies. “It has been unbelievable. So refreshing.
“To have daily conversations, to be thinking about how you can improve things in your own club, having the time to do that is something I've found, number one, refreshing, and secondly, very, very motivating.”
It was a memorable campaign for Derry footballers earning Ulster glory under Rory Gallagher too with McKaigue’s performances rewarded a PwC All-Star.
“The one thing I’m always conscious of portraying is that the career that I’ve had with county up to last year hasn’t been as much doom and gloom as some people might like to point out,” McKaigue says.
“At the end of the day, being able to play league finals in Croke Park, two Division One, one Division Two, one at Division Three, one at Division Four, it’s still a lot better than a lot of county players.
“Within my county career I’ve been allowed to play on Railway Cup teams, able to play for my country in the compromise rules.
“Things like that, you just can’t take it for granted. To be able to play at that level against the best teams, the best players is always a platform that I wouldn’t get if it wasn’t my own county.
“I’m grateful for what I had prior to this year, but after this year you get a flavour of what it’s like to be at the top table. Once you get a flavour of that you don’t want to let it go.”