GAA Football

Derry defender Chrissy McKaigue intends to take an 'extended break' before return to action

Slaughtneil's Chrissy McKaigue in action against St Vincent's last year
Andy Watters

DERRY defender Chrissy McKaigue says he’ll need an “extended break” before he returns to the Oak Leaf jersey.

After five years fighting on two fronts with his club Slaughtneil and then throwing himself into battle for his county, dual star McKaigue says the time has come for him to “recharge his batteries”. That means he could miss the rest of Derry’s National League Division Three campaign.

Since 2013, McKaigue has been at the forefront of an exceptional era of success for the Robert Emmet’s club that has delivered four Derry titles and three Ulster crowns in football as well as two All-Ireland final appearances. With a hurl in his hand, McKaigue has won five Derry Championships in-a-row and back-to-back Ulster titles and appeared in the last two All-Ireland semi-finals.

Throw in League and Championship campaigns with his county (he made his debut in 2008) and his work – McKaigue is a teacher at St Mary’s Limavady - and you get an accurate picture of a man who has driven himself hard and earned the right to put his feet up to let his body rest and his mind clear.

“Playing those types of games week-in, week-out for the last number of years… There’s a huge expectation and a huge emotional energy being drained, particularly as a dual player,” he explained.

“When you’re playing championship games of that magnitude all the time it’s fantastic and they’re the best days of your life playing them - win, lose or draw - and I can totally vouch for that.

“But you have to understand that at some point you have to try and recharge your batteries to try and get that wee bit better the following year.

“I’m at that age now where I’ve been around long enough and played long enough that I know that physically, mentally and emotionally I need to take an extended break and that’s what I’ll be doing.

“I haven’t how long decided yet to be honest but certainly for another couple of weeks. We are amateur athletes even though we prepare professionally and, like everybody else in the GAA, I have to go to a job five days-a-week and you have to factor that in also.”

Slaughtneil clubmates Brendan Rogers and McKaigue’s younger brother Karl featured in Derry’s loss to Armagh at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday night but it seems that former Sydney Swans star Chrissy won’t return until he feels ready.

He admits it may be time to re-examine Slaughtneil’s punishing schedule, but says he wouldn’t swap his club’s success for the All-Ireland title that eluded them.

“We are a small club in terms of our playing pool and the players are the most important resource in all of this,” he said.

“A huge demand was placed on the players but what they’ve done in the two codes has been absolutely unbelievable. I think against Nemo it probably compounded and told its tale and we might have to tweak that going forward.

“But would I change achieving what we have over the last four years in hurling and football even though we didn’t win an All-Ireland? No way.”

McKaigue added: “There’s no doubt that our hurling and football management can feel very aggrieved over the last three years because people don’t understand that they have only been allowed to get about 50 per cent – at best – access to us,” he said.

“They don’t even get 50 per cent because they’re sensible enough to let players rest and they understand about injuries and keeping players fresh. I’d say they were working on about 40 per cent and they were still able to get the best out of us.

“People are always thinking: ‘What if Mickey had had us as a single code club?’ but Slaughtneil is about promoting the three codes. I have said that numerous times and my stance hasn’t changed on that.”

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