Dublin v Tyrone: Pascal confident of winning battle of keepers
Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal McConnell has been forced to pick the ball out of his net on just one occasion in his county’s last three games.
Neither Longford nor Armagh were able to find a way past McConnell but Roscommon’s Karol Mannion fired home a superb effort in last week’s third qualifier outing for Mickey Harte’s side.
Tomorrow at Croke Park, though, Newtownstewart clubman McConnell — whose brother Finbarr wore the No.1 shirt for Tyrone some years ago — is hoping to keep another clean sheet against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
The long-serving custodian knows better than most the huge impact goals can have on the outcome of matches — witness Christy Toye’s dramatic three-pointer for Donegal against Kildare last Saturday and Kevin McLoughlin’s invaluable strike for Mayo against last Sunday — and he is anxious to ensure that Dublin’s occasionally vulnerable morale is not boosted by finding the Red Hands net at any stage.
“While goals are important in every game no matter at what level, there is no doubt that they carry huge currency in the closing stages of the All-Ireland Championship,” insists McConnell.
“We will be hoping to prevent Dublin from getting one and maybe with a bit of luck we might be able to hit their net ourselves.”
McConnell’s ability to spread his gigantic frame has earned him the reputation of being an excellent shot-stopper while the variety of his kick-outs is a crucial element in Tyrone’s attacking blueprint. He may have been beaten twice in the Ulster semi-final against Donegal but since then the Red Hands defence has taken on a more watertight appearance.
McConnell’s counterpart tomorrow, Stephen Cluxton, has been one of the best goalkeepers in the country over recent years.
Cluxton has collected All Star awards but like the rest of his Dubs colleagues he is desperately keen to annex an All-Ireland medal having endured heartbreak on several occasions in the past.
Tomorrow both McConnell and Cluxton will share a huge burden of responsibility in what is a massive game.