McConnell on guard for Clones clash

At six foot, four inches, Pascal McConnell has a towering influence over Tyrone football, but the Newtownstewart custodian has healthy competition for his goalkeeping position and this keeps him well grounded as he focuses on the Red Hands' Ulster SFC final clash with Monaghan at Clones this Sunday.

At six foot, four inches, Pascal McConnell has a towering influence over Tyrone football, but the Newtownstewart custodian has healthy competition for his goalkeeping position and this keeps him well grounded as he focuses on the Red Hands' Ulster SFC final clash with Monaghan at Clones this Sunday.

McConnell has a height advantage over fellow Tyrone goalkeepers John Devine and Jonathan Curran, and there is certainly no weak link in the last line of defence whomever Mickey Harte chooses between the posts.

It is McConnell's turn this weekend to step up to the mantle and keep ahead in a running battle with Devine in particular, for whom he was 'second in command' back in the 2008 All-Ireland winning run.

McConnell only returned to the starting line-up that year for the All-Ireland decider, owing to the death of Devine's father on the eve of the game.

2008 is still in McConnell's mindset, but he has no complaints about being overlooked for the majority of that campaign.

"You'd like to get a run of games. I've a couple of games under my belt now," he said.

"In 2008, it maybe didn't go so well for myself. I went out against Down and was overlooked the next day, and rightly so, because I didn't perform the way that I would have liked.

"You've got to be on your toes. It's typical with the whole Tyrone squad.

"If you are not performing, you will find yourself looking over your shoulder, and you will find yourself replaced. That's a testament to the competition that is in the squad."

The civil servant says he is happy with his football at the moment, despite the huge competition for the number 1 shirt, with the 30-year-old lauded for his superb blocking during the semi-final win over Down last time out.

"I'm happy enough with the way things are going, but you cannot rest on your laurels. You can't think that those few saves will do you for the rest of the season.

"We've two quality goalkeepers in Jonathan Curran and John Devine. That has kept me on my toes."

McConnell is certainly loyal to the Red Hand cause, and despite his belief that it is performance rather than loyalty which is giving him the starting role this weekend, he still has sympathy for Monaghan's reserve 'keeper Sean Gorman who has been overlooked, in favour of regular defender Darren Hughes.

"Personally, I think what happened (putting a defender in goal) was wrong. But 'Banty' (Seamus McEnaney) is a top manager. He is big enough to stand up and make those decisions, and big enough to take it on the chin if it goes wrong.

"As a goalkeeper your heart goes out to Sean Gorman. I'm sure the fella was training hard. I'm sure he was aspiring to be Monaghan 'keeper some day."

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