Derry star Chris McKaigue has turned down lucrative offers from two Australian Rules teams so he can line out for his county in this year’s Championship.
The 22-year-old has spent the last two years with the Sydney Swans and has been offered contracts by Greater Western Sydney and Port Adelaide to remain in Australia.
But instead he says he wants to return home and pick up his football career with John Brennan’s Oak Leafers.
“I’ve just turned 22 so I am at the right age to play a bit,” McKaigue said,
“I’ve a fair bit of experience under my belt and I’m out of the game a fair while. I’m excited about coming back and playing Gaelic football.”
“I might have played a few games here and there, no doubt, but I don’t think you should aspire to play a few games on any team you are in, you should aspire to play all the games.
“I’d have played a few games at Port Adelaide if things had gone well, but it was just too high a risk to re-locate in a different part of Australia and go back for a year.
“It could have been another year of my life when I wouldn’t have been ultimately doing what I want to do, which was playing Gaelic football.”
McKaigue reached the Derry Senior Football Championship final in 2008 with Slaughtneil, but they were defeated by Ballinderry.
He was vice-captain of the Derry Minor team that were runners-up in both the Ulster Minor Championship and All-Ireland Minor Championship in 2007. Earlier that year he won the Ulster Minor Football League with the county, and lifted the cup as captain.
In 2008 McKaigue reached the Ulster Under-21 Championship final with Derry Under-21s, but they were beaten by Down due to a late goal.
Later that year he was drafted into the Derry Senior panel before the Championship meeting with Monaghan. He came on as a substitute in that game to make his Derry Senior debut and scored a point.
He was involved from the start of the 2009 season and was named in the Dr. McKenna Cup, National League and Championship panels. Derry reached that year’s National League final where they were defeated by Kerry.
McKaigue’s decision is a boost for Brennan as he plans his assault on the All Ireland Championship next year.
Derry will begin their Ulster Championship campaign against Cavan or Donegal on Saturday June 16 next year. Cavan play Donegal in the first round at Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday May 20.
Meanwhile the fixtures for next year’s Allianz National League have been confirmed and Derry will open their division two campaign at home to Galway on Sunday February 5.
They meet Tyrone on Sunday February 12, Monaghan on Saturday March 3, Kildare on Sunday March 10, Meath on Sunday March 18, Louth on Sunday March 25, Kerry on Sunday April 1 and Westmeath on Sunday April 8.