Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Chris O'Connell's title appetite not satisfied

Glory hunt: Chris O'Connell is seeking success at all levels

Antrim goalkeeper Chris O'Connell will be targeting his second honour within a three-week spell when he lines out in Sunday's Ulster final against Derry at Owenbeg.

The 26-year-old custodian has certainly been living life in the fast lane recently in terms of club and inter-county action.

He turned in superb performances against Wexford in the quarter-final of the Leinster championship and Offaly in the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers. And it was immediately after the Offaly encounter in which Antrim exited the All-Ireland stage that the tireless O'Connell landed his first honour.

He scarcely had time to shower before he found himself dashing to Armoy where his club Loughgiel Shamrocks confronted McQuillans Ballycastle in a reserve cup final.

Once again, O'Connell showed his mastery between the posts, replicating some of the fine saves that he had made against Offaly earlier in the afternoon.

Loughgiel duly won the trophy and their success has merely whetted O'Connell's appetite for more honours.

"While it was very satisfying to win with the club, it would be terrific to get another Ulster medal with Antrim. In my book, it is still an honour worth cherishing," says O'Connell.

Having initially made an impact with Antrim at minor level – he was a member of the fine side that came close to beating a Joe Canning-inspired Galway side in the All-Ireland series in 2006 – O'Connell has morphed into one of the best goalkeepers not just in Ulster, but in the country as a whole.

On Sunday he will face a Derry in attack in which Ruairi Convery scored 1-11 in the team's defeat of Down in the Ulster semi-final replay at the weekend.

Derry manager Ger Rogan, himself a former Antrim player, acknowledges that the Saffrons, who have been the dominant force in the province for several years, will be a tough nut to crack.

"They showed in their recent matches against Wexford and Offaly that they are a decent side and in Chris O'Connell they have one of the best goalkeepers around," reflects Rogan.

"We may be playing at home at Owenbeg but I do not see this as giving us any sort of psychological advantage. Antrim will be as comfortable there as we ourselves are."

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