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What it's like to be chasing dual All-Ireland success on St Patrick's Day

Chrissy McKaigue and Slaughtneil will play in two All-Ireland semi-finals in February.

Image: Presseye/Kevin Scott/INPHO

SLAUGHTNEIL’S EPIC 2016 season finally concluded with a successful trip to London.

The club’s footballers secured their last four spot by successfully navigating the All-Ireland quarter-final in the English capital.

With a short Christmas break to come, the Derry champions will face a headache as they prepare for a hurling semi-final against Cuala on February 4, before taking on the mighty St Vincent’s seven days later.

Even for a club who’ve successfully negotiated the dual issue this year like no club team we’ve seen before, the short gap between both games makes them big outsiders to make an All-Ireland final in either code.

“It’s always difficult to put into words but Slaughtneil probably in the last three or four years had have a lot of success,” says Chrissy McKaigue who’s gunning for a dual All-Ireland success.

“Obviously there’s been a media frenzy because we’ve won Ulster titles in three codes in the same year. The consistency of our playing group has been exemplary the last couple of years and that’s been untouched.

“Look, to actually win the three titles in the same year is special. It probably portrays more than ever that we value the three codes, we promote our girls as well as our boys.

“It’s hugely satisfying that they’re getting a lot of positive PR because if anybody could see the work that our girls do and hurlers and footballers do, you’d see why the success has actually come.”

Pronsias Burke,  Conor McAllister and James McCloskey celebrates at the final whistle Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

For a club who’ve dominated Ulster across three codes this year, they’re not making any excuses as the face the Dublin clubs. But what makes them so special? Where has this recent success sprouted from?

“The more I think of it, there is probably a few key ingredients.”

“I’m a firm believer that Slaughtneil, from when it was created in ’53, it has always had an unbelievable passion for the crest, for the jersey and what it represents.

“We haven’t had a huge amount of success I suppose. We have had bursts of sporadic success but that passion and identity has always remained and that’s probably a truer sense of what we’re about than any success can bring.

“In the last number of years, we’ve had a playing group that’s come together that’s been hugely talented. We’ve had great management teams and stuff like that there but I’m a firm believer that the identity and the association we have with our family and our people and our community and everything that’s good about Slaughtneil, we take that onto the field.

Shane McElroy, Hugh Pat McGeary, Michael Hasson, Darren Woods, Tommy Bloomer, Aidan Branagan and Brendan Rogers Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

“Sometimes talent goes out the window, it’s more about a togetherness and a unitedness and I think Slaughtneil could definitely boast that they’re the most united and probably together club in the country, because we support each other in all codes every step of the way.

“But I think out of all the dual players starting, I’m the oldest. So the age demographic definitely helps.

“I think the younger you are it’s a bit easier.”

The former AFL recruit, who was released by the Sydney Swans in 2011, says achieving such success with his club feels all the sweeter as a result.

“Absolutely. You appreciate winning in general I think but look part of the sporting journey, you’re going to have up and downs.

“But when you’re with a group of players like the Slaughtneil boys, irrespective of victory or defeat, you know what you’re going to get with them.

“I think that’s actually really important because you don’t want to dedicate so much of your life to a game or players that don’t have the same mentality as you. They’re a privilege to be part of.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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