McKaigue injury blow for Derry
DERRY and Slaughtneil have been dealt a major blow with the news that Karl McKaigue will miss the entire season.
The classy defender suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in a hurling championship tie against Ballinascreen two weeks ago and underwent surgery yesterday at Musgrave Hospital.
With a standard recovery time that runs into several months, McKaigue – a physiotherapist by trade – will be sidelined for the rest of 2020.
The absence of such a top-class man-marker will be a massive blow for club and county.
Slaughtneil, having won three Ulster football titles in four years, are looking to try and win back the Derry crown for the first time since 2017.
They are also defending the county hurling title for the eighth successive year, although the removal of the provincial and All-Ireland series' from this year's calendar will stunt their ambitions.
McKaigue has long been regarded as one of the best defenders in the province, having emerged as a key player in Slaughtneil's first Ulster success back in 2014.
That autumn he marked Seanie Johnston (Cavan Gaels), Conor McManus (Clontibret) and Ronan O'Neill (Omagh) and conceded just 0-2 from play across the three games.
McKaigue received rave reviews for the man-marking job he did on Peter Harte in Omagh last summer and will be a huge miss in the Derry defence as they try to match-up to a threatening Armagh attack for their Ulster SFC opener.
Derry host Armagh on either October 31 or November 1, and will be hopeful of retaining home advantage depending on limits on spectator numbers.
Ulster GAA are not likely to confirm venues until at least a few weeks from now, but the GAA has suffered a major setback in terms of the Irish government's decision on Tuesday to again delay their move to phase 4 of their roadmap for emerging from the restrictions.
It means the number of people that can attend a game in the south is still capped at 200, including the teams. The limit is 400 in the north, but the idea of big crowds attending games later in the year seems increasingly unlikely.