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16th Feb 2017

#TheToughest: Chrissy McKaigue’s summation of Slaughtneil is what every GAA club should strive for

THIS is what it's all about

Conan Doherty

There was a moment during that historic All-Ireland club semi-final that summed up all that is good about Slaughtneil.

Chrissy McKaigue, right in the middle of one of the most possessed performances you are likely to ever see, pulled away from danger, shook off a challenge from Diarmuid Connolly and won a free.

He jumped into the air, fists clenched, teeth being bitten and he celebrated with pure and utter passion. If ever an image screamed Slaughtneil, that was it.

The Derry champions were all but written off even after all they have been through. Even after their camogie team and hurlers joined them in Ulster glory, Slaughtneil were still fancied to be put away by St. Vincent’s but it’s never that black and white on the foothills of the Glenshane mountain.

Yes, they have talent and they have loads of it. Yes, they have a completely engaged and enthusiastic playing force. But it’s not about that. It’s not about the skill or the population or anything that might work for or against them.

There’s one constant and that is pride of place.

Slaughtneil want it more than most others have even thought about wanting it. They want to represent themselves with distinction. They want to wave their flag all over the country and they’d crawl through mud, glass, and their own blood to get a chance of doing that.

“You have to go out and you have to earn respect,” that’s how Chrissy McKaigue sees it. They don’t feel sorry for themselves in Slaughtneil because they haven’t the same size of catchment area as other clubs.

They never felt inferior when, before 2014, they had just one Derry football championship to their name. Before 2004? None.

Reputation means very little. It’s about what you do on the pitch on a given day and time and time again, these men and women from Derry are rising above themselves, defying the odds, and bringing the country to a standstill for these magical hours some Sundays.

“One thing our club doesn’t lack is showing a wee bit of passion. That’s probably why so many people have learned to respect us a bit more in the last couple of years,” Chrissy McKaigue spoke on The GAA Hour football show, sponsored by AIB.

“We never claim to be the most talented and we never claim to be the most skillful but I think whenever our camogie players or hurlers or footballers pull on that maroon jumper, we just go out and we give it our absolute best.

“In today’s modern era, that’s quite nice to see in sport because everybody’s going out to please other people, or they’re scared of other people’s opinions, but in Slaughtneil we just embrace who we are. We’re a very passionate bunch.”

Who they are has gotten them this far. Why would they ever change?