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Slaughtneil Have Turned Football Hurt Into Hurling Opportunity

Slaughtneil Have Turned Football Hurt Into Hurling Opportunity
By PJ Browne
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Looking back now, Slaughtneil players can see their defeat to neighbours Glen in last month's Derry football final created an opportunity. It meant they could concentrate fully on the Ulster Hurling Championship.

In years past, Slaughtneil had fully embraced being a dual club, and gave football and hurling equal time on the training pitch when they competed on both fronts at provincial level.

"As good as Glen are at the minute, excellently managed, with an unbelievable squad of players, it was a sore defeat for us. We weren't at the races all year," said Slaughtneil's Chrissy McKaigue ahead of this weekend's Ulster final against Down champions Ballycran.

"Dare I say that we needed a bit of time to get over that too. We had a bit of time to mentally get it sorted in our minds. We just accepted that we weren't good enough, and that we didn't have to wait until next year to get ourselves back up and running - the hurling could be the vehicle to do that.

"We have put everything into the hurling. There's a bit of hurt there, and it's translating into the hurling at present.

"In sport, defeats can come at the right time, and it can spur you on for different things."

15 December 2021; Hurler, Chrissy McKaigue of Slaughtneil, Derry, ahead of the AIB GAA Ulster Senior Hurling Championship final, which takes place at Corrigan Park on Sunday, December 19th, and will see Slaughtneil face off against Ballycran. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Losing the county football final meant Slaughtneil had five weeks to prepare for their Ulster semi-final against Antrim champions Dunloy. They easily won the match by seven points. Manager Michael McShane said afterwards he expected his side to win the game.

"Like any other game, what gives you confidence is your preparation," said McKaigue.


"That's maybe that Michael was referring to. Our preparation prior to the Dunloy game was similar to the preparation that we had prior to the Ballyhale game [in 2019]. Our performance against Dunloy was fairly good, albeit still flawed in some areas.

"I do think hurling is more difficult than football, we play more football throughout the year and hurling is a very technical game.

"A lot of the Ballycran boys are hurlers only and are coming off a year of hurling with their county team. We don’t have as many players in that situation so we’re very lucky to have had the last number of weeks to prepare from a hurling perspective with no distraction from a football perspective.


"But our identity is as a dual club and we would want to be still in both. But we were nowhere near good enough in the football."

McKaigue looks at the example of Loughmore-Castleiney winning the senior football and hurling double in Tipperary, the excitement their run created, and thinks more clubs should embrace that ethos.

"It’s great to see clubs around the country embracing the dual aspect because I still think it’s very much possible to compete from a dual perspective at club level. It’s a very different conversation at county level," said the Derry footballer.


"I think every young person growing up in GAA should aspire to play as many codes as possible and clubs should try their best to facilitate that.

"When you see that and how many people around the country gravitate towards that and see how great it is, they certainly earned a lot of respect and plaudits this year."

This year's AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who are not defined by what they have won, but by how they persevere no matter what - and this Sunday's showdown is set to be no exception.


See Also: 'We Don’t Have Anything Else. There’s No Gaelic Football Even In Clough-Ballacolla'

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