McKaigue rues Na Piarsaigh defeat
By John Harrington
Slaughtneil’s Karl McKaigue admits Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final defeat to Na Piarsaigh felt like a missed opportunity.
The Ulster champions led by three points at half-time and then had a two-man advantage for most of the second-half when Na Piarsaigh’s Conor Boylan and Tommy Grimes were red-carded.
But they were comprehensively out-hurled by the Limerick club in the second-half, losing by seven points in the end, and McKaigue believes that’s because they didn’t know how to make the most of their numerical superiority.
“The two straight reds - we didn’t know what way to deal with it,” he said.
“We didn’t know whether to push up or play with the sweeper, we ended up getting caught in no-man’s land and doing neither.
“It’s something you never prepare for. I know for a fact it was something that was never discussed in our whole winter period if one man gets sent off, never mind too.
“In fairness, Na Piarsaigh got their tactics spot on, they sort of dropped their defenders back, and their midfielders just sat in front of them.
“Then they played Dowling up front and they got high balls in, and he’s so good in the air.
“Scores were coming off him, they were winning frees and they were killing the clock. They were cute about it, and they were worthy victors.
“They’ll take some stopping come March 17.”
Slaughtneil were also beaten at the All-Ireland semi-final stage last year by Cuala.
And though they’ve definitely improved since then, McKaigue admits it’s difficult for them to bridge the gulf between them and the best clubs from southern counties.
“Last year, we didn’t know what standard the guys were down here,” he said.
“We found out in the most cruel way that there was a huge gulf.
“This year, we made trips to Kilkenny, Wexford and Dublin to try and close that in good quality challenge games. It brought us on a bit more.
“It is difficult, though. It’s a demanding schedule, when you have to travel down south to play opposition, and you’re trying to work with the football on top of that as well. It’s very, very tough.
“It’s tough to try and find other ways to close that gap, because it is very big. A lot of them Limerick lads play for their counties and then some of our club lads wouldn’t even play county hurling.
“So you’re only playing your club and Ulster championships and it’s a difficult problem to try and solve.”
The Slaughtneil players can’t afford to feel too sorry for themselves after Saturday’s defeat to Na Piarsaigh because they have to immediately switch their focus to playing Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland Club Football semi-final on Saturday, February 24.
“That’s it,” said McKaigue. “It’s always good to have a big game to look forward too.
“Obviously, Nemo are a quality side, and we’ve been knocking on the door for a few years now.
“It is good to have your mind taken right off it because if you had too long to think about that Na Piarsaigh game, you’d be in a bad place mentally.”