'We're very thankful to Cuala but the GAA should have dealt with it'
Chrissy McKaigue believes the GAA authorities should have taken a more hands-on role in sorting out his club's February fixtures headache.
The Derry footballer is one of numerous Slaughtneil dual players chasing AIB All-Ireland club glory on the double, starting with Saturday's SFC semi-final against St Vincent's in Newry and followed by their SHC showdown with Cuala in Armagh on February 25. The latter was originally fixed for last Saturday but the Dublin champions agreed to a three-week postponement.
McKaigue said it was "massive" that they've been given a fortnight between games.
"We're very thankful to Cuala," he stressed, "but I thought the GAA should have dealt with it themselves.
"Obviously it will go back to the calendar congestion, but it shouldn't have been up to Cuala. It was, and thank God they were very supportive."
Slaughtneil are already through to the All-Ireland senior camogie final but their flagship men's teams will both start as outsiders.
That has plenty to do with the pedigree of Vincent's and Cuala, but their dual workload is an obvious factor too: McKaigue is one of nine players who will potentially start both semis, with "upwards of 20" involved in both squads.
"We've been used to the congestion, so we don't get too caught up with it - there's no point," he said.
"The day you start looking for excuses when you're in our situation, you're out of sync with what's really happening. We know what to do in terms of our preparation."
A one-time Aussie Rules recruit with the Sydney Swans, McKaigue conceded that playing both codes carries injury and fatigue risks.
"But we've gone away from looking at that as a negative in our club because of the actual success," he said. "You have to stop looking for the perfect preparation because it just doesn't exist in a dual club."
Besides, Slaughtneil have plenty of double-jobbing practice: they've won the last three county football and last four hurling titles in Derry.
"Sadly the duality in most clubs won't work unless there is success because people will find a reason for it not to work," McKaigue surmised.
"That was probably similar in our club too, but more people have come around to the idea that you can embrace being a dual player and it's just not about football coming from a county like Derry.
"I always think, if you are part of a GAA club, you have a obligation to promote all your codes because at the end of the day we are all Gaels.Everyone is talking about Slaughtneil not because of the football, hurling or camogie but because of the three."
Looking to Saturday, McKaigue argued that people shouldn't read too much into Slaughtneil's underdog status against Vincent's. Why? Because the experience of reaching the 2015 All-Ireland final, only to be blitzed by Corofin, "can't be under-estimated". "We were almost a wee bit shellshocked," he recalled of that final. "It wasn't what we as a club want to embody and it hurts; of course it hurts.
"We suffered a hangover in 2015 because of it. We scraped through Derry, Scotstown beat us narrowly in Ulster but we weren't anywhere near the team we were. So in 2016 we had to take a long look at ourselves and try and improve."
Signs are on it.