Belfast Telegraph

Pascal McDonnell can take place among Tyrone greats

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Declan Bogue

Funny how you can mistake people. Pascal McConnell was one of those players you thought might prove difficult to interview. On the pitch he used his huge frame to intimidate rivals, and his remorseless pokerface reminded you of the Ivan Drago character in Rocky IV.

Meeting McConnell for an interview last year, we weren't sure what to anticipate. From the moment he turned up, however, he proved to be an articulate, funny and pleasant character.

He had been re-installed as Tyrone goalkeeper, a position he might have thought was beyond him after Niall Morgan was instantly trusted as Mickey Harte's new secret weapon. Injury was to end Morgan's season, however, but it also gave McConnell a chance to conclude his county career at the very top.

It has often been said that there was a battle between himself and John Devine for the number one jersey, but after the 2008 All-Ireland final, when Devine withdrew after learning of his father's passing, McConnell held a virtual monopoly on it.

To dislodge him from the team would take something special and in Morgan, Tyrone have a potential game-changer on their hands.

But as Packie departs, we wonder if that is the end of an old-fashioned stopper, of someone who commands their area above all else, as the era of the Stephen Cluxton-type goalkeeper/quarterback begins? Perhaps so. That's how sport evolves.

In the imagination of Tyrone fans however, Big Packie will take his place inside the Pantheon of great players that brought so much success to the county. Good luck to him.

Belfast Telegraph

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