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STEVEN McDONNELL last night called time on a 13-year glorious career with Armagh.

McDonnell, 32, asked Paddy O'Rourke for an extended break from Orchard County duty before Christmas and he didn't feature at all during the National League campaign.

"There are not too many inter-county footballers with four kids still playing at the age of 33," he said, explaining his decision to take a step back at the time.

There were hopes that he would return for the Ulster Championship campaign but it comes as little surprise that the ace Killeavy forward, who played a major role in Armagh's first and to date only All-Ireland triumph in 2002, has decided to hang up his boots at inter-county level.

McDonnell had been hampered by groin and achilles problems in recent times and family commitments - his wife recently gave birth to the couple's fourth child - also played a part in his decision.

Only last month the three-time All-Star had expressed major doubts that he would return.

But it will still come as a massive blow to Armagh's Championship hopes this summer that he has called it a day, particularly after his county's relegation from Division One this spring and with a provincial quarterfinal to come against Tyrone on June 10.

"After 13 years of playing county football with Armagh I decided that the time is right for me to retire at this level and move on," he announced.

"I want to thank all the managers and players that I played alongside and made some great friendships along the way.

"I also want to thank all the supporters throughout and also supporters from all over Ireland that respected what Armagh done in this time."

f yr McDONNELL FACTFILE AGE: 32 HEIGHT: Killeavy INTER-COUNTY Seven Ulster 1 National Football Division 1 title, Football League title, 3 All-Stars, of the INTERNATIONAL Played in 4 International Rules Series', two-Test scoring of 34 points in Only the fourth Ulsterman to Ireland.

McDonnell will be remembered as one of the most dangerous forwards of his generation, his predatory instincts in the corner playing a central part in Armagh winning an All-Ireland, seven Ulster titles and a league title in a remarkable period for the county.

r r His presence struck fear into defences around the country after he burst onto the intercounty scene in 1999, when he instantly made an impact as Armagh triumphed in Ulster that summer.

But the highlight of his inter-county career - which spanned close to 50 matches - was the success against Kerry in the All-Ireland final a decade ago.

ti n cf He was also given the honour of captaining Ireland's International Rules team in 2010, an indication of his commitment to the fixtures against Australia.

A 6'0CLUB: ticf McDONNELL FACTFILE AGE: 32 HEIGHT: 6'0 CLUB: Killeavy INTER-COUNTY HONOURS: Seven Ulster Championships, 1 National Football League Division 1 title, 1 National Football League Division 2 title, 3 All-Stars, 2003 Footballer of the Year INTERNATIONAL HONOURS: Played in 4 International Rules Series', creating a two-Test scoring record of 34 points in 2003.

Only the fourth ever Ulsterman to skipper Ireland.

lifts STARS USE TWITTER TO PAY TRIBUTE PADDY BRADLEY Best of luck on your retirement. One of the best in the business and one I had the pleasure of playing alongside.

ALAN BROGAN Best of luck stevie, pleasure to watch you and play alongside you on international rules team.

AARON KERNAN It was a privilege to have had the honour to play with you for county, province & country.

KEVIN CASSIDY You were our downfall on so many occasions over the last decade but you can't begrudge class, enjoy.

EAMONN FENNELL Luckily enough 2 have had pleasure of playing against and train with Stevie. True gent and an unbelievable player.

EMMETT BOLTON Was lucky enough to play with @Killeavy13 one of the top forwards in the country and a true gent. Best of luck with the retirement.

BERNARD BROGAN Best of luck on your retirement. Delighted to have had the honour of playing alongside you for Ireland.

JAMIE CLARKE A privilege to have played with Stevie. A class act and one of the best the game has seen.

BENNY COULTER Just heard of the retirement of Stevie. A bad day for supporters throughout Ireland, Armagh's best ever PAUL KERRIGAN Best wishes to Stevie in his retirement! Star player for every team he lined out for.

Over a decade at the very top DEBUT YEAR McDonnell shows how it feels to win 2000 Ulster title DRIVEN McDonnell in Opel car he won as 2003 Footballer of Year OLD PAL Clashing with familiar foe Ryan McMenamin of Tyrone JOY Celebrating 2008 Ulster title LEADER Lifting 2011 International Rules cup in Oz with Ciaran McKeever


SKIPPER McDonnell lifts DIvision Two title OINT POINT TAKENMcDonnell in action last summer for final time in an Armagh shirt s
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Apr 13, 2012
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