Larne, County Antrim born half back English McConnell came to prominence with Cliftonville in the early days of the twentieth century, after joining them in 1899. At Solitude he picked up both international and inter-league honours while featuring in a fairly average club side, making his Ireland debut in April 1904 in a 1-0 win over Wales at Bangor. In all he won two caps while with Cliftonville, the second coming 5 days later in a 1-1 draw with Scotland, on both occasions Ireland avoided defeat. He also won both his Irish League caps in the same 1903-04 era.
Transferred to Glentoran in May 1904, McConnell found himself in a much more accomplished team, one that claimed the 1904-05 Irish League title courtesy of a deciding Test Match win over Belfast Celtic. In what was his only campaign at the Oval he again featured for both Ireland and the Irish League.
McConnell moved to big-spending First Division club Sunderland in June 1905. He made his Football League debut at left-half in a 3-0 win over Blackburn that October, but was not a regular in his first season at Roker Park. His second season on Wearside brought much more first team involvement, but the club finished a disappointing tenth in the First Division. In his three seasons with Sunderland McConnell won a further four Irish caps, but after just eight appearances in his final season it seemed obvious that he was surplus to requirements.
In May 1908 McConnell signed for Sheffield Wednesday after exactly 45 appearances on Wearside. Once again he was playing for a thoroughly mid-table side, but he was in the team more-often-than-not from his debut, a 1-1 draw at Leicester on 1st September 1908. In his two seasons with Wednesday McConnell played 50 times for the first eleven and added five more Ireland caps to his collection. His twelfth and final Ireland cap came as captain, in a 4-1 defeat by Wales in Wrexham in April 1910.
Late in the 1909-10 season Chelsea were struggling at the foot of the First Division and sought out a number of experienced players to stave off relegation, McConnell amongst them, signing for £1000 in April 1910. Their survival bid failed and consequently all but three of his appearances for the Stamford Bridge club were played in Division Two. After somewhat more than a year with Chelsea, and 21 appearances for them, McConnell played a year for North Eastern League South Shields joining them in May 1911 before returning to Ireland. On his return home McConnell joined Linfield in May 1912 where he won his second Irish League winner’s medal in 1914, but was denied the “double” after an Irish Cup Final defeat by former club, Glentoran.
Strong and muscular as a player, throughout his career McConnell featured all across the half-back line as required. His playing days ended with the suspension of regular football in 1915 due to the First World War.