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'Put on a plate for me': Galway teen plays down first hat-trick for Brighton U23s

Former Mervue United attacker Aaron Connolly was in scintillating form for Brighton U23s last night.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

IRISH TEENAGER AARON Connolly played down his role in Brighton U23s’ 5-0 win over Wolves at Molineux, but hopes his side can follow their first-team counterparts in achieving promotion to the top division over the next few weeks.

The Galway man, who featured in The42′s 18 for 18 series over Christmas, netted his second club hat-trick (his first coming in an U18s game earlier this season) to put Simon Rusk’s side 3-0 up last night.

The 18-year-old, while quick to praise those who provided him with the respective assists, admitted that his opener set the tone for what transpired to be a resounding Seagulls win.

The Mervue United product told Brighton’s website: “It was a good team performance and the chances were put on a plate for me. They were good balls from Max [Sanders], Danny [Mandroiu] and Henrik [Bjordal] – I wouldn’t have scored without them.

“The first goal gave the team a big lift going into the second half, as we didn’t play as well as we usually do in the first half of the game.

“We came out of the traps quickly in the second half and it ended up being a good performance from the team.

“Goals give strikers confidence – it was great to get another three, and hopefully I can carry that form into the play-offs.”

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

His U23s are unbeaten in their last 15 games over 90 minutes, with a Premier League Cup exit to Swansea on penalties the only blot on the last few pages of their copybook.

Connolly is imbued by his team’s recent form, and hopes they can replicate the success of Chris Hughton’s senior outfit last season in achieving promotion at the end of their current campaign.

“We conceded in the last minute against Reading at the beginning of January”, he said, “and we came into training the following week, eager to impress and get back to winning ways.

“From then on we’ve had an unbelievable run and hopefully we can continue this form in the play-offs and win promotion.

“It would be huge because we want to play in the top league against the big teams. Just like the first team going from the Championship to the Premier League, that’s what we want to do.

“It’s a one-off game and anything can happen – but hopefully if we play like how we did in that first half, we should be able to get a positive result against Middlesbrough.”

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

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