Westmeath goalkeeper Connaughton retires

Westmeath goalkeeper Connaughton retires

Long-serving goalkeeper Gary Connaughton, who won an historic first Leinster SFC title with Westmeath in 2004, has announced his retirement from inter-county football.

Connaughton told his team-mates that he was bowing out in the aftermath of their All-Ireland SFC first round qualifier defeat to Fermanagh in Mullingar on Saturday.

In an interview with Midlands 103 today, he said: "I was always going to retire sometime, I just felt last year I broke my ankle and I was nearly going to pack it in. But I was determined to come back and play for another year and finish out as the number one goalie.

"As the course of the year went on I kinda knew that my time was up. I didn't want to finish up hanging in there for another couple of years and getting in the way of younger goalies coming through.

"I just felt the time was right to go and that the younger lads could come and take my place. Disappointed to go and to finish out the way it did, but that's just the way it goes and I had a great 12 years playing for Westmeath."

The 33-year-old added: "It was a big part of my life, I enjoyed the whole time playing. There were ups and downs, we had some good days especially in 2004 under Páidí Ó Sé - they were great days.

"Beating Galway in 2006 in the qualifiers, beating Dublin in a (Division 2) league final in 2008...they were good games and great memories.

"I just feel this is a younger team and you don't want people to be telling you to retire. You don't want to be hanging in there trying to recreate that bit of magic you had a few years ago.

"If you start making mistakes at this level, you're not going to get any better. I'm getting on at this stage and it probably needs a change."

Connaughton was Westmeath's first choice goalkeeper for upwards of a decade and won an All-Star award for his performances during the 2008 season.

The Tubberclair clubman is a former Republic of Ireland underage soccer international. He had trials with Newcastle United as a youngster and played in the League of Ireland for Athlone Town.

He recovered from a broken ankle, which he suffered during a playing spell in Boston last summer, to extend his inter-county career for another season.

Tyrrellspass stopper Darren Quinn is the likely replacement for Connaughton.

He deputised in goal for the Lakesiders during last year's Championship and took to his Twitter page today to acknowledge Connaughton's career.

"Best wishes to big G in retirement. Brilliant to train with him over the last few years, very thankful for all his help and advice," wrote Quinn.

Another of Connaughton's Westmeath team-mates, Paul Sharry, tweeted: "Delighted I had the opportunity to play with Gary after watching him make history in 2004. One of the best 'keepers in the country for the last 10 years."

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