Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Pascal's superb decade at an end

Hands on the prize: Pascal McConnell won three All-Ireland titles as well as four Ulster senior medals with Tyrone

Triple All-Ireland senior winner Pascal McConnell has called time on his illustrious inter-county career with Tyrone.

The big Newtownstewart keeper made his decision over the weekend but admitted that it was something that he had been considering for a number of months.

"It was in my mind that 2013 was going to be my last season at this level," said the Tyrone stopper.

"I had mentioned it to John Devine and that this was my last year and I intended to enjoy it to the full and I did.

"There is a big commitment required in order to stay performing at the top level and I feel the time is right to bow out and start a new chapter in my life."

Pascal arrived on the senior scene in 2003 on the back of winning an All-Ireland minor medal in 1998 as well as back to back U21 honours in 2000 and 2001 before going on to win the Sam Maguire three times, he also pocketed four Ulster senior medals, something he couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams.

"If someone had told me back at the beginning of 1998 that I would go on and win all that with Tyrone I would never have believed them," admitted Pascal.

"Those successes at youth level though were vital as there was no fear within that group of players when they got to senior level.

"When we got to Croke Park for the big games we expected to win and that was a major factor in us winning so many titles.

"I have absolutely no regrets from my playing career with Tyrone although I suppose if I was a bit greedy I would say that I felt that we could have won the All Ireland in 2009 and 2010.

"You have to be thankful though for what you do win because my brother Finbar did goals for Tyrone for 14 years and never won an All-Ireland medal. That is something that I would have been very aware of when I was coming up through the ranks and it helped keep my feet on the ground, he was a big inspiration for me."

While Pascal was substitute in the breakthrough Sam Maguire triumph in 2003, two years later he was between the sticks when the Red Hands overcome Kerry in the decider and he was also in goals in Tyrone's last triumph in 2008, a day that was bitter sweet for him.

"2005 will always be special as I won my first senior All-Ireland in goals but from a performance point of view the 2008 decider was probably my finest hour. It was a game that was tinged with sadness with JD's father passing away the day before and I only found out at 5pm that I would be playing and that win was for him and his family as much as anybody else," he said.

"The 2005 semi-final win over Armagh is another game that will live long in the memory as were the games against the Dubs, they were always special occasions in front of packed houses in Croke Park."

Pascal will continue to line out for Newtownstewart and while he confesses that he will miss the life of a county footballer he says that he will now enjoy being a supporter and predicts a bright future for Tyrone.

"I have been involved with Tyrone teams since I was 16 so obviously that has been a big chunk of my life but I will now become an avid supporter of the team and get behind them.

"I believe that the future for Tyrone football is bright. We have great youth structures in place and if we can keep making progress there is no reason why we can emulate the success of the past decade.

"Tyrone sides no longer go down to Dublin to put up good performances, they go down to win, and the way things are now in the county only Sam Maguire success will quench the thirst of our supporters."

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