Aaron Connolly explains why his football career has not 'kicked on'

The Irish striker says off-field issues have impacted him.

Ireland's Aaron Connolly has struggled for form of late.
Ireland's Aaron Connolly has struggled for form of late.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Aaron Connolly has suggested off-field problems are partially responsible for his indifferent recent form.

The 22-year-old striker has long been considered one of Irish football’s brightest prospects.

A brace on his full Premier League debut for Brighton against Tottenham in October 2019 added to the sense of expectation surrounding the youngster.

However, the Galway native has failed to maintain that level of form in recent times.

After struggling to establish himself as a first-team regular at the Seagulls, he spent the second half of last season on loan at Middlesbrough but did not set the Championship alight, with two goals in 18 appearances for Chris Wilder’s side.

It’s been a similar story at international level. Connolly has eight Ireland caps but has not featured for the Boys in Green since the 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan in September last year, while a combination of injuries and form have led to his exclusion from recent squads.

However, earlier this month, the striker secured a season-long loan move to Serie B club Venezia and he is hopeful the move to Italy can rejuvenate his career.

“Physically and mentally, I haven’t felt this strong in a long time, ” Connolly told Irish Football Fan TV.

The player also elaborated on some of the reasons why he has struggled to build on the early promise he showed, explaining: “A lot of people know why I haven’t kicked on and I know myself. That’s why this move to Italy was vital, just to get away from the circle I was in back in England, I needed a fresh start.

“My confidence was on the deck when I missed chances and hadn’t been playing. I wasn’t in the right place to go on loan last year. I did it because I wanted to play football but I wish this version of myself right now had shown up at Middlesbrough. It would have been a different story.

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“Mentally, I wouldn’t have been able to move abroad last season. I wouldn’t have been excited. But this time, I couldn’t say yes quick enough.”

Connolly also revealed details of a meeting with Irish boss Stephen Kenny, in which a lack of energy from the striker during the Azerbaijan game was highlighted and he added: “It’s either I keep going in the phase I was going in and eventually I’ll just be completely forgotten. At the minute I’m probably the forgotten man in Irish football and if I kept associating with people I’d been associating with before, I would have completely gone off the scale.

“That love for football has probably faded in the last three seasons. Everyone can probably tell by my performances at times. And maybe the way I carried myself on the pitch and sometimes off it.

“Now I’m in a better headspace, you look back at games and think ‘Was I really walking around for that long? Did I really have my head down for this long? Did I really walk around like that?’”

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