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25th Feb 2017

As Congress rewrites the Championship, Chrissy McKaigue has a timely reminder on GAA fixture madness

It's already crammed

Mikey Stafford

Slaughtneil’s drive for a remarkable treble continues at the Athletic Grounds this afternoon when their hurlers take on Cuala.

The Camogie team are already in the All-Ireland club final, as are the footballers after they saw off St Vincent’s in their AIB All-Ireland club football semi-final.

The tiny club from the foothills of Derry’s Sperrin Mountains are on the cusp of something magical, but the unique nature of their three-pronged excellence has caused some issues in a GAA calendar that may be about to get more compacted if votes go the way they are expected to at Congress.

If the hurlers beat Cuala in Armagh this afternoon the All-Ireland club final will be moved from its traditional date of St Patrick’s Day due to the fact the footballer and hurlers share 17 players.

However, allowances have already been made for this driven group of men, and it was not made by the GAA centrally, but rather by their opponents Cuala.

One of those 17 is hurling captain and football talisman, Chrissy McKaigue. The Derry intercounty star turned in one of the great modern performances to outscore Diarmuid Connolly four points to one from centre half-back in the semi-final.

It is unlikely McKaigue could have given such a tour de force were the Slaughtneil hurlers to have faced Cuala seven days earlier, as was originally planned.

“As much as we want to prepare like professionals, we have to go to work, we have to tend to our families and all the rest of it.

“So we’re very thankful to Cuala. But I thought the GAA should have dealt with it themselves,” said McKaigue.

“Obviously it will go back to the calendar congestion, but it shouldn’t have been up to Cuala – but it was, and thank God they were very supportive.”

They were lucky their opponents had the decency to delay the fixture by three weeks to allow the Slaughtneil dual players a full fortnight between matches. No small gesture when you have been waiting since last year to play your next competitive match.

Will Central Council’s proposals, if passed, help alleviate the fixture congestion or simply make the life of a dual player (and dual clubs like Slaughtneil) unsustainable?

The GAA calendar needs an overhaul.