Chrissy McKegg meets her kindred spirit at dairy manager Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher calls him Christopher. Only Mr. and Mrs. McKegg has ever called her like that. For everyone else it’s Chrissy.

For a dairy manager, giving your captain his full title – no abbreviation, no surname – is a significant difference.

respect? Appreciation? Maybe even a little scared!

“Me and Rory have a very, very close relationship but the boys also laugh that our relationship is more open and honest than most of the players,” McGee recalled.

“We go to each other sometimes, but we are very, very close and probably in many ways we share similar personality traits.”

Kind souls, inspired, assertive, passionate. But in McCaig, Gallagher knows he has one of the best man markers in the game, a study for more than 70 minutes in concentration and alertness.

He has picked up the top three at Ulster in his three championship games so far and conceded just two points to both Tyrone’s Darren McCurry.

Donegal’s Patrick McBerty was kept scoreless from playing as Monaghan’s Jack McCarron, but McCarron’s defense won three frees which were converted and added a mark to McCarron’s company. The odds are stacked against the defender so results like this give him a fillip.

“I found myself in that role, even when I was playing the pitch for Slotneil,” McCaig recalled.

“I spent the bulk of my inter-county career in the full-back line and it’s a very different role. The kids I teach at the school say it’s not a very glamorous job, but it’s a great job for every team. Stoppers are needed. It’s extremely satisfying. I would say it’s satisfying to know that you’ve been given the confidence to go out and mark the marquee players, so it’s more.

“But you’re always aware that every day you go out there’s always a potential problem so you stay grounded and you stay humble. As long as I play that role or one of those roles, Well, it’s something that gives me satisfaction. Sometimes even against marquee players, breakeven is about as good as you can manage.”

But there is more to his game these days than just stopping. is leading. By example and by word. And paying less attention to his own game and more to others has helped him.

He said, “I have tried to nurture more players on and off the pitch and I think in many ways it has taken a great deal of the pressure off me with my own performance. I can see,” he said. ,

“There was a very long time in my own career when I couldn’t do that. So I’m really enjoying this phase of my career because it’s so different and I have a different look at it.

“Maybe you don’t appreciate how special it is when you’ve been stuck in that bubble for your entire career.”

Derry’s rise has been one of the stories of the summer and McCaig has been one of their biggest components.

Derry meets Claire in the first of the All-Ireland quarterfinals on Saturday, a spot in the Last Four signing for the first time in 18 years.

He has been there for all but five of those years since joining the team in 2008, before returning at the end of 2012, leaving for a few years to pursue an Australian rules career with the Sydney Swans and now 11 years. exists for.

In that time they had a painful plunge into Division 4, as recently as 2019.

“We were never used to being so low but the reality is that we had to learn from that experience and I firmly believe that the county board has enough experience and enough people who are working on the grassroots that we will never be there again. Will not return so that we can protect what we have and build on it.

“Because anyone who is well entrenched in GAA history will know that Derry has always produced good players and has always had a serious football pedigree.”

They have had success at a very young age and have always enjoyed a thriving club scene, but they need all the “curves” to come together, and Gallagher’s arrival was a catalyst.

“When he came in – and I think he would laugh about it now – but I don’t think he realized what a bad place Derry was in. He was probably caught unintentionally in the first year. We were in a really bad place.” Tactically we didn’t know, culturally we were in a bad position in terms of the environment required to compete with the top teams.

“Covid came at a good time for us as we were largely in disarray. We had a little time to decide where we were, what we needed to change. Rory has been good to Derry but I think Dairy has been good for him too,” said the Slotneil man.

Last month’s Ulster title has given McCaig and Derry a sense of recognition.

“You might think you’re good enough, and you might think you can compete with the big boys. But until you beat them, it’s huge. We beat the three teams that finished the last one.” Has been dominant in Ulster for the decade, especially Tyrone and Donegal.

“So for that youth group to declare themselves like that, I mean, you can’t replicate that kind of pressure environment or opportunities. You can either play in them or you can’t.

“Whatever happens this year, now we can say that we can compete with better teams. It’s some place where we were three or four years ago.”

His time, he admits, is getting shorter. At 32 years old, how long can he really pursue the best of the provinces, and now the country, without exposing himself to one of those days that every corner dreads?

“My body has long been starting to feel its toll, not only in the inter-county but also in the club scene,” he admitted.

“Very soon I will have to make decisions about hurling and football, some aspects of county football, whatever it may be. But when they come along we will give them the decision. As long as I’m able to compete with better players, I’ll keep trying and moving around.

“We have a very good backroom team in Derry that can think of modifying the way we train and take care of some players. I am now at that stage of my career where I would train morning, afternoon and night. And it’s very strange for someone like me to say that. But now it has come to a level where I need to train smarter and if I can do that then maybe I can move around a little longer.”

There is also gratitude. “It may take a long time, but he had better than many others before last month’s Ulster title,” he admitted.

“I was always mindful of the fact that when I look back I have been able to achieve in terms of serving Derry. I have been able to win the Railway Cup, play international rules, I have been able to play in the Division 1 final, odd good day in championship, mark the best players, play against the best players. I’ve been very lucky at club level.

“So I’ve got it much better than a lot of other people so gratitude is a big deal I’ve thought of but I’m ambitious and with that you get selfish.”