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'Not at all' - Playing Aaron Connolly in Georgia not a gamble, says Mick McCarthy

Shane Duffy and David McGoldrick will be given every chance to prove their fitness for this week’s double-header, meanwhile.

STARS RISE FAST in football, and Aaron Connolly’s will not necessarily thump against a glass ceiling later this week as Mick McCarthy says he doesn’t view playing the 19-year-old against Georgia as a gamble. 

aaron-connolly Aaron Connolly at Irish training today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Last week it seemed unlikely that Connolly would get be promoted to McCarthy’s squad from the U21s, with McCarthy saying he was unsure that Saturday’s Euro 2020 qualifier away to Georgia would be a game for debutants. 

That was last Wednesday, though, and Connolly has since scored twice against last season’s beaten European Cup finalists and filled the void left in the senior squad by the injured Ronan Curtis. 

“Not at all, no”, said McCarthy when asked today if playing Connolly in Georgia would be a gamble. 

“Do you know, I’m just delighted that he has done really well. It’s a good option, that if I want to play him I can.

“He plays with personality and the fact that he comes in here on a high with some momentum after scoring two at the weekend, that’s nice as well. That will give some confidence but then we have had some others who have scored at the weekend which is great.”

McCarthy also clarified his comment about Saturday’s game not being one for debutants. 

“I’ve also said that if someone gets in the first team in the Premier League and is scoring goals, then he has every chance of getting in the team.

“So that kind of neutralises the first comment in my mind. This was all on the back of Aaron playing well in the 21s and Troy Parrott playing well in the 21s.

“I’ve said all along if you are playing in the Premier League and scoring goals, then you have a chance.” 

mick-mccarthy Mick McCarthy speaks to the media today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McCarthy didn’t see Connolly’s dazzling show against Spurs live, although assistant Robbie Keane was watching. The Irish boss has since reviewed the tape. 

“Robbie sent me a message to say he’d [Connolly] scored two goals and played really well. I think he’s very quick, very direct, he’s happy to take people on, his movement is very good and his hold up play is very good. He plays with personality, and he’s got a bit of aggression in him, which I really like.

“He looks like he is enjoying it, looks like he’s thriving on it; like he really wants to be out there. He put it up to the opposition as well. Some people can go out there and play and it’s a bit like [gestures to signal disinterest]. They played, but others play with a real bit of personality.”

McCarthy then elaborated on what he meant by “personality.” 

“Would you say James McClean plays with personality? I would, I’m not going to talk about anyone who doesn’t play with personality. But I think so. You know he’s on the pitch, and you know he’s always going to be doing something.

“You see his personality at the end of the Swiss game, when he barges Mbabu off the ball and puts the cross in [for David McGoldrick’s equalizer].

“That’s what I’m talking about.” 

Connolly linked up with the squad late last night, and McCarthy’s only interaction by the time the manager held his press conference before today’s training session amounted to a handshake and a ‘well done.’ 


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McCarthy was unwilling to engage in forecast on just how good the Galway striker can be. 

“I’ll watch him in training, and I’ll sit down and chat to see what kind of lad he is. If he plays in either of the games I’ll be better able to tell you, as I barely know him.

“To judge him on what little I know of him now would be wrong, except that he’s an exciting prospect.” 

Shane Duffy and David McGoldrick have not linked up with the squad yet – they are at their clubs recovering from calf and hamstring issues respectively. McCarthy is hopeful both will be ready to travel to Tbilisi, and have been given the maximum amount of time to prove to their clubs and McCarthy they are fit to travel. 

He is optimistic Duffy will be ready in time. “I’ve just told Shane via a text message, the plane is leaving at 2pm from Dublin Airport to Tbilisi, so we’ll keep a seat with extra legroom as we always do, so don’t be late.” 

If neither Duffy or McGoldrick are ready for the game in Georgia, they will be considered for the Swiss game in Geneva the following Tuesday. 

Ireland will be without left-back Enda Stevens for the game in Georgia, through suspension. With Greg Cunningham ruled out through injury, Matt Doherty looks the most likely to deputise. 

“Enough people have been screaming for him to play so he might get his chance at left-back. I don’t have too many options. Derrick Williams who can play there, although he sees himself as a left-sided centre-back and I think that is his best position.” 

Ireland are top of Group D, unbeaten with 11 points from five games. A win away to fourth-placed Georgia would go some way to securing qualification, given closest rivals Denmark could only draw in Tbilisi last month. 

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Gavin Cooney

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