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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

18 for 18: Galway's Aaron Connolly hoping to break through at Premier League Brighton

The striker has been prolific at underage level.

Aaron Connolly has already made his senior debut for his club.
Aaron Connolly has already made his senior debut for his club.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Over the next 10 days, our 18 for 18 series will look at 18 Irish athletes aged 18 or younger set for a big 2018. You can read the rest of the series here

IF IRELAND’S FAILED World Cup Qualifying campaign thought us anything, it’s that, since Robbie Keane’s retirement, there has been a distinct lack of finishers in the squad.

17-year-old Aaron Connolly might just be the solution.

Born in Galway, Connolly is a product of Mervue United and has been a prolific scorer at underage level since making his debut for Ireland’s U17 in September 2015.

Indeed, in the run up to the Uefa European U17 Championships, the Brighton striker found the net six times in eight games.

Connolly joined Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer of 2016 and, when he came on as a sub with 14 minutes remaining in a League Cup match against Barnet in August, made history as the first player born in this millennium to play for the senior side.

Speaking to Eire Guide earlier this year, Connolly said that having a large number of Irish players at Brighton definitely helped with his move across the water.

“The amount of Irish players at the club is brilliant and has helped me a lot. It has been easy to settle in with the U18s and more importantly with the U23s last night and having the Irish lads there was a massive help.

“They have been first class with me and not just the Irish lads, but the whole team has been brilliant.  Having a player of Liam Rosenior’s calibre playing with you is always a help and he is brilliant with all the younger players.”

With no World Cup on the horizon for Ireland, Martin O’Neill might use the friendlies in the early part of the year to try blood some new talent.

If he can make the breakthrough to the senior side with his club, the Irish manager might have little choice but to look in Connolly’s direction.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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