|Employer||CBS, ABC, ESPN, Boston Red Sox|
McDonough was an intern at the short lived Enterprise Radio Network in 1981.
It was in Syracuse where McDonough began his broadcasting career in 1982 as the play-by-play announcer for the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League. McDonough was also an Ivy League football announcer for PBS. He was a sideline reporter from 1984 to 1985 and a play-by-play announcer from 1986 to 1987.
Four years after graduating from Syracuse, he began broadcasting Boston Red Sox games on WSBK-TV (Channel 38) in Boston with former Red Sox catcher Bob Montgomery and later former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy. McDonough announced Red Sox games until 2005.
He began work for CBS Sports in 1990, where he broadcast college basketball (including 10 NCAA tournaments), college football (including the prestigious Orange Bowl game), the College World Series, the NFL, US Open tennis, three Winter Olympics (bobsled and luge in 1992 and 1994 and ice hockey in 1998), and golf (including four Masters and PGA Championships).
Outside of New England, he is probably best remembered for his time as CBS's lead baseball announcer, a role in which he was teamed with Tim McCarver. In 1992 at the age of 30, he became the youngest man to announce the national broadcast (and all nine innings of all of the games played) of the World Series. Coincidentally, that particular record would be broken four years later by Fox's 27-year-old Joe Buck, the son of the man McDonough replaced on CBS, Jack Buck.
Technically, Vin Scully, who was 25 when he called his first World Series in 1953, is the youngest man to ever call play-by-play for a World Series. However, unlike Sean McDonough and later Joe Buck, Scully was there as a representative of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The policy of World Series broadcasters at the time allowed representatives of the participating teams to do alternating play-by-play on the national television broadcasts instead of an actual network employee (as was the case for Scully when he was NBC's lead baseball play-by-play man from 1983 to 1989).
Perhaps Sean McDonough's most famous call is his emotional description of the Atlanta Braves' Francisco Cabrera (who had only 10 at-bats at the major league level that season) getting a dramatic, game-winning base hit in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates:
|"||Line-drive and a base-hit! Justice has scored the tying run, Bream to the plate...and he is SAFE! Safe at the plate! The Braves go to the World Series! The unlikeliest of heroes wins the National League Championship Series for the Atlanta Braves. Francisco Cabrera, who had only ten at-bats in the major leagues during the regular season, singled through the left side, scoring Sid Bream from second base with the winning run. Bream, who's had five knee operations in his lifetime, just beat the tag from his ex-mate Mike LaValliere and Atlanta pulls out Game 7 with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. This place is bedlam. There will be no second nightmare for Bobby Cox. Final score in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series: the Braves 3 and the Pirates 2.||"|
He also called the final play of the subsequent 1992 World Series, in which the Toronto Blue Jays became the first non-American based team to win the Major League Baseball's world championship:
|"||Nixon bunts! Timlin on it! Throws to first . . . For the first time in history, the world championship banner will fly north of the border! The Toronto Blue Jays are baseball's best in 1992!||"|
|"||Well-hit down the left-field line! Way back and GONE! Joe Carter with a three-run homer! The winners and still world champions, the Toronto Blue Jays!||"|
Three years later, while calling the College World Series for CBS alongside Steve Garvey, McDonough called another series clinching home run. This time, it was Warren Morris, who hit a two out, 9th inning walk-off home run that won the 1996 College World Series for the Louisiana State University Fighting Tigers against Miami.
McDonough's other major endeavor at CBS was his coverage of the NCAA Tournament with then-partner (and fellow Irish-American) Bill Raftery. McDonough and Raftery covered a number of regional finals in the 1990s before McDonough's run at CBS came to an end. The pair developed a terrific on-air rapport, thereby enabling them to spice up their broadcasts. Before the 1999 South Regional Final between Ohio State and St. John's from Knoxville, Tennessee, McDonough and Raftery donned fishing gear as they previewed the game from a boat on the Tennessee River, which was just outside the arena.
In 1998, McDonough--with Raftery at his side--called one of the great buzzer-beaters in NCAA Tournament history, as Connecticut defeated Washington in the East Regional Semifinals on a last-second shot by Richard Hamilton.
|"||Spreading the court for El-Amin. Ten seconds remaining. El-Amin, off to Voskuhl. He was pushed, the shot won't go...Hamilton, no! Another tip, no! Hamilton, at the buzzer, yes! Yes! Connecticut wins!||"|
McDonough is known for his past work on Red Sox broadcasts, moving over the years to various local stations including WFXT (Channel 25), WABU (Channel 68) and WLVI (Channel 56). In 1996, he was teamed with Jerry Remy. He worked with Remy for nine seasons before being replaced in 2005 by NESN announcer Don Orsillo. McDonough attributed his firing to his salary and disputed talk that his "candor" was to blame.
He later turned down an offer to become the New York Mets play-by-play man on television.
Since 2000, McDonough has announced baseball, college basketball, college football, NBA, NHL and NCAA hockey for ABC and ESPN. Specifically, McDonough announces many Big East college football and basketball events. He has also contributed to ESPN's coverage of the U.S. Open and British Open golf tournaments, and called the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship Final Four alongside Quint Kessenich.
It was McDonough calling the play-by-play on March 12, 2009 on ESPN between UConn and Syracuse which went into 6 overtimes, becoming the longest game in Big East history clocking 3 hours and 46 minutes. The final score was 127–117 in favor of Syracuse. Also on the broadcast was color commentary from Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas.
On September 28, 2011, McDonough called the nationally televised game in which the Baltimore Orioles came back to defeat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 after Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon came within one strike of closing the game. McDonough called Baltimore's Robert Andino's walk-off single, which occurred only three minutes before Evan Longoria's walk-off home run against the New York Yankees in St. Petersburg gave the Tampa Bay Rays, who trailed the Red Sox by nine games on September 3, the American League Wild Card, as follows:
|"||Lined to left, Crawford playing shallow dives...cannot make the catch! Reimold comes to the plate! He scores! And the Baltimore Orioles stun the Boston Red Sox!||"|
McDonough was also behind the mic for the fumbled punt in the final seconds of the Michigan State-Michigan football game on October 17, 2015, that resulted in the game-winning touchdown for the Spartans.
|"||Whoa, he (the Michigan punter) has trouble with the snap...and the ball is free! It's picked up by Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson...and he scores! On the last play of the game! Unbelievable! (pauses while the team celebrates) Michigan State is still the big boy on the block in the state of Michigan. A shocking ending to this rivalry game.||"|
Starting in 2013, McDonough started play-by-play work for the NFL on ESPN Radio. Others included Ryan Ruocco, Marc Kestecher, and Bill Rosinski, who previously did NFL games for NFL on Westwood One as the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers.
McDonough was named lead play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football (succeeding Mike Tirico, who departed for NBC Sports) beginning in the 2016 season. In March 2018, ESPN announced that McDonough would be leaving Monday Night Football and would return to announcing college football games.
In 2014, McDonough was named to the Hall of Fame for WAER, Syracuse University's noncommercial radio station where he began his sports broadcasting career as a student.S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications also honored McDonough in July 2016 with the 4th annual Marty Glickman Award. In May 2007, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Southern Vermont College.