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All Ireland: Don’t panic, Tyrone will be back

Big Pascal McConnell remains defiantly optimistic despite Tyrone’s failure to make the All Ireland semi-finals.

“We’re all bitterly disappointed but we can bounce back and believe me there will be panic or overreaction,” he said.

“This isn’t the time or the place for knee-jerk reactions. Players need time to gather their thoughts and see what the future holds.

“So much has been written about the age of certain players, but nobody knows better than the players themselves.

“Players like Brian Dooher and Brian McGuigan know what they have left to offer.”

McConnell, in his own quiet way, is better able to offer a perspective on the way ahead than most.

For two seasons ago, on the eve of the All Ireland final against Kerry, he was drafted into the Tyrone side after the death of reserve keeper John Devine’s father.

Due to unfortunate circumstance he found himself between the posts on All Ireland final day and his two crucial saves, one in each half, kept Mickey Harte’s men on course for a third All Ireland title.

Against Down in the Ulster championship semi-final this year he again pulled off two trademark saves.

“I was gutted for John Devine when he missed the 2008 All Ireland final,” he said.

“The goalkeeping spot has always see-sawed between John and myself since the 2003 All Ireland final against Armagh.

“There’s always been a great rivalry between John and myself, but we’re still the best of mates.

“We’re always very supportive of each other but when you happen to be on the bench you would give anything to be actually playing.”

Packie, as he’s known to his colleagues, has had more than enough time to reflect on how Tyrone’s bid for an All Ireland semi-final spot came unstuck.

There was no one defining moment but when Martin Penrose hit Dublin’s bar within sight of half-time, it was a hint that just maybe the fates were conspiring against the Ulster champions.

“If that shot had hit the net we would then have been four points clear and who is to say what might have happened,” he said.

“The unfortunate yellow carding of Cathal McCarron didn’t help and then to cap it all we kicked an abnormal number of wides.”

Tyrone fans have always had high expectations, but for once they were left cursing their luck.

It’s worth remembering, though, that this current squad of players has been on the road for the past seven years and there were times last Saturday they looked a jaded and tired side.

Manager Mickey Harte has been criticised in some quarters for being overly loyal to the players who had brought him that success over the years.

But this is a man who took over the managerial reins when the county had yet to lift the Sam Maguire. Some players with excess mileague will move on with the minimum of fuss, but not for some time yet.

Others will consider their long-term futures and that includes men the calibre of captain Brian Dooher, Brian McGuigan and possibly even Stephen O’Neill whose season was jettisoned by injuries.

Tyrone’s pride has been dented, but like the wounded lion they will return boosted by an injection of fresh-faced youngsters keen to carry on a winning tradition in the years ahead.

Belfast Telegraph

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