GAA Football

Shane McGuigan hails Slaughtneil team-mate Chrissy McKaigue after All-Ireland semi-final win

Slaughtneil's Shane McGuigan with Jarlath Curley of St Vincent's, Dublin during the All Ireland Club SFC semi-final. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

SHANE McGuigan paid a fitting tribute to his Slaughtneil team-mate Chrissy McKaigue following Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin champions St Vincent’s.

McKaigue produced an incredible display in the Derrymen’s two-point victory over Tommy Conroy’s side. Tasked with man-marking Dublin star Diarmuid Connolly, McKaigue completely dominated the St Vincent’s playmaker and registered four points from play.

“Chrissy is a different animal,” said McGuigan, “the way he looks after himself, the hours he puts in at the gym and his nutrition, and he’s helping me to blend into this team.

“He’s just a role model for any young athlete who wants to aspire to become a great GAA player.

“He’s the perfect model to copy and you’ve seen his performance against St Vincent’s.

“That’s been throughout the year. He won Ulster Player of the Year and I couldn’t copy enough off him.”

McGuigan also produced a towering performance of his own for the Robert Emmet’s club. He fired over two frees in the first half but his left-footed effort that sailed over the St Vincent’s crossbar in the 44th minute was one of the highlights of Saturday’s semi-final triumph.

“Right from the age of 19 to 35 every man trusts each other’s ability,” said the 19-year-old wing-forward.

“That’s the biggest thing about our team – we trust in every man. And hopefully we’ll carry it into the final.”

It’s only this year that McGuigan has secured a place on the senior football panel. Two years ago, when Slaughtneil played in the All-Ireland football final against Corofin, he acted as water boy for the team.

“I was on the panel last year and I didn’t break through until this year,” he explained.

“This is the first time I’ve got playing for the seniors. I wasn’t involved in the last All-Ireland final – I was actually doing water boy that day along the line so it’ll be different this time!”

He added: “We weren’t using that defeat as motivation. We couldn’t look past St Vincent’s but at the back of players’ minds we knew we didn’t do ourselves justice in the last All-Ireland final in Croke Park.

“Thankfully we have the chance to right the wrongs of two years ago.

“We know we’ll probably go in as underdogs again [against Dr Crokes] but we will look forward to it.”

For spells in the first half of Saturday’s semi-final Slaughtneil looked tentative before breaking the chains in the second half to blitz their Dublin rivals.

“Things weren’t going right for us,” McGuigan said.

“There were a few misplaced passes in our forward line which gave them the chance to break. At half-time, Mickey [Moran] told us to just calm ourselves and keep the ball, and we retained it well in the second half.

“We worked and worked, recycled the ball and knew when to take the right shot and it paid dividends for us in the second half.”

McGuigan will now turn his attention to the club’s All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final against Cuala at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday February 25.

The south Derry club is still on course for an historic All-Ireland treble in hurling, football and camogie after managing this feat on the provincial stage.

Despite the heavy training schedule, McGuigan said: “I’m not complaining at this stage. Success breeds success. It’s like a drug to this team. We just want more and I can’t wait for it, to be honest.”

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