Karl McKaigue - Slaughtneil's Mr. Consistent
By John Harrington
Karl McKaigue’s defensive stats make for seriously impressive reading.
In his last eight football championship matches, the Slaughtneil man hasn’t conceded a single point to the man he marked.
That’s all the more laudable when you consider he’s gone head to head with household names like Conleth Gilligan, Jerome Johnston, Ronan O’Neill, Ryan McHugh and Seanie Johnston during the club’s run to Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final against Nemo Rangers.
McKaigue has been a crucial figure for Slaughtneil all season, but thinks the credit for holding all his markers scoreless should be spread throughout the team.
“It’s a reflection on the team, our defensive unit, especially in football is quite strong and we don’t tend to ship much scores to any team,” said McKaigue.
“We take a lot of pride in trying to keep teams down to 10 or 12 points, so it’s probably down to that more-so than the individual performance.
“As a defender, first and foremost, you try and keep your man scoreless. That probably was a wee bit, to be honest, I don’t know if it reads through. A lot of the time, I was getting dragged out the field with some opponents, I wasn’t actually in the full back line.
“A lot of the time, as well, Brendan Rogers and Patsy Bradley in the full back line beside me pulled me out of holes. My man could have scored and then there was a block in by one of them - So it wasn’t down to my performances that they didn’t score.
“It is a nice stat, one that puts a bit more pressure on me, now, with that target on my back but it’s a nice one to have. Hopefully I can try, along with my other defenders beside me, try and keep that going.”
Slaughtneil are bidding to reach their third All-Ireland Club SFC Final in just four years, but McKaigue knows only their very best will be good enough to beat Nemo Rangers on Saturday.
“We’ve given ourselves a chance to try get back to a third All-Ireland final in four years,” he said. “It’s all well and good thinking that, but we have to get over Nemo Rangers.
“We saw what they did to Dr Crokes in the Munster final - the team that beat us last year - they beat them by 6 or 7 and could have beaten them by more so we’ve one hell of a task to get back to St Patrick’s day again and it’s not something that we’re overlooking.”
Saturday’s semi-final takes place in O’Moore Park which was the also venue when Slaughtneil defeated then Kerry and Munster champions Austin Stacks in the 2015 All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final.
McKaigue is hopeful that’s a good omen for their chances of success this weekend.
“Those days were brilliant,” said McKaigue. “That day, all the Stacks supporters were out with their drums and the parade - it was all very respectful, they were making plenty of noise, but if our free-taker had a free it was silence.
“There was a real GAA ethos that day. A brilliant game in awful conditions. It’s one I’ve very fond memories of, so hopefully we can repeat the trick this time.
“That year 2014 was only our second ever Ulster campaign. We managed to win it, so we were straight into the unknown drama and excitement. We may have been overawed that day, that we played in such a clinker of a game, and that whole emotion of coming out on top, of getting to play in Croke Park with lads you’ve played with since a young age.
"It was very special and it’ll be very exciting going back to Portlaoise from the memories we have there the first time."