'I gave him a wee jab in the stomach, that’s all it was. Stephen didn’t take too lightly to it'

Armagh’s Steven McDonnell is this week’s guest on Warriors.

Armagh footballer Steven McDonnell.
Armagh footballer Steven McDonnell.
Image: INPHO

STEVEN MCDONNELL WON an All-Ireland senior medal when kicking the winning point against Kerry and shared in seven Ulster successes in Armagh colours.

But it was games against Dublin that were the dominant theme when he reflected on his career as our guest this week on the Warriors GAA podcast for The42 members.

Stephen picked out two thrilling wins over Dublin as part of the favourite games of his career – the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final and the 2003 qualifier.

The latter featured a stirring second-half revival as Armagh won out in Croke Park, on a day when his namesake in the Dublin goal lost his cool in front of Hill 16 and was sent-off.

It didn’t damage the McDonnell-Cluxton working relationship thereafter on the International Rules stage as the three-time Armagh All-Star winner recalled. 

“Thankfully Stephen held no grudges against me. We went on and played with Ireland and represented Ireland together. In the heat of the moment things be done and things be said and you get on with it.

“There was a ball went wide, Stephen Cluxton went running, I think the Nally Stand might still have been there, running in that direction anyway to get the ball.

“I gave him a wee jab in the stomach, that’s all it was. Stephen didn’t take too lightly to it, turned around in full view of Pat McEnaney and kicked me. Obviously Pat didn’t see what I had done to Stephen, which was antagonise him but Stephen got caught red-handed and got sent off.

“I have a great picture of Stephen shaking my hand, I’ll never forget what he said, he just said, ‘Thanks for that’.

“I said, ‘No problem’.

“That’s the God honest truth.”

Cluxton is remarkably still playing at inter-county level and shining on the highest stage of the game. The 2019 Footballer of the Year won his seventh All-Ireland senior medal and sixth All-Star last year.

steven-mcdonnell-and-stephen-cluxton Steven McDonnell and Stephen Cluxton training together for Ireland. Source: James Crombie

“He’s been the outstanding goalkeeper of his generation, probably the greatest goalkeeper of all time. He has really transformed how the game is played. I’ve nothing but admiration for Stephen Cluxton, how he’s kept his fitness levels so high throughout his career, particularly now as he’s approaching his 40s.

“I’ve seen his preparation style when I was with him with Ireland. He really focuses in on preparing himself diligently for every game. He’s been majestic to watch.”

McDonnell talked about just how significant that 2002 semi-final was in turning the fortunes of Armagh football and his own career, kicking 0-10 in a league final in Croke Park and how that Armagh team will be regarded in Gaelic football history.

To listen to the full interview and listen to an 18-episode back catalogue featuring the likes of Liam McHale, Ken McGrath, Johnny Doyle and Seanie McMahon, subscribe at

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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