GAA Football

Karl McKaigue targets Sigerson Cup success as Ulster University head for NUIG showdown

Karl McKaigue of Ulster University prepares to tackle David Mulgrew of Tyrone during the McKenna Cup. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup quarter-final: Ulster University v NUI Galway (tonight, Abbotstown 7.30pm)

TWENTY-seven past or present Ulster University players were involved in last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals.

It’s a truly impressive statistic but it doesn’t include the many capable players who didn’t get to that lofty stage with their counties.

Derry’s Karl McKaigue is one of them. McKaigue has feasted on success with his club Slaughtneil Robert Emmet’s in football and hurling but these are hard times for the Oak Leaf footballers.

The semi-finals of the All-Ireland series must seem a long way off for the Division Four outfit but Derry do seem to be heading upwards once again after last Sunday’s win over London made it two wins out of two in the League. McKaigue is determined to keep that run going against NUIG this evening.

“The Sigerson Cup is probably the next highest level of football after inter-county,” he said.

“Most players involved in the universities have considerable experience at inter-county levels through minor to senior while the big universities will have a county select where lads have been playing at senior county level for years.

“It is unique because it offers quality players from traditionally weaker counties the opportunity to mix it with the lads who would be playing in the latter stages of the All-Ireland and gives them a chance of winning an A-grade All-Ireland medal.”

UU teammates Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Michael McKernan go head to head in Electric Ireland’s #FirstClassRivals challenge:

Derry’s first victory in the League was over Ulster rivals Antrim and McKaigue will hope that several more derby clashes follow in the summer. But for now inter-county rivalries are put to one side as players unite under the UU banner.

“It definitely takes some time, I suppose you don’t fully gel as a team until you’ve had a few games together or a few wins together,” said McKaigue.

“That’s why you see the best football played in the Sigerson Cup at the latter stages of the competition as lads have got more game time to gel and grow as a team, putting away the county rivalries, which inevitably leads to better performances.”

NUIG will hope that is the case. The Galway University students – who include Antrim’s Owen Gallagher - bounced back from losing a free-kick shoot-out to St Mary’s by beating Garda College in the newly-introduced qualifier route. Driven on by wing half-back Patrick O’Donnell and five points from Galway’s Peter Cooke, the Galway students left Templemore with a 0-11 to 0-9 win.

In their opener, Ulster University had to come back from three-points behind to beat IT Tralee with 14-men after Gareth McKinless had been sent off.

Mayo’s Patrick Durcan hit 1-2 as UU scored 1-6 without reply to move 1-10 to 0-7 clear. A Mark O'Shea goal reduced the deficit to just two points but UU closed the game out with three unanswered points.

Ulster University has signed a three-year partnership with Keltbray, the UK’s leading specialist business offering engineering, construction, decommissioning, rail and environmental services. The partnership will support the Ulster University Gaelic Academy, including sponsorship for a US tour that will see players travel to New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the autumn. (L-R) Garett Duffy, Cassie Fitzpatrick, Martin Conlon, Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon, Brendan Kerr, Andy McClafferty, Eoin Ban Gallagher and Vince Corrigan.

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