Aaron Connolly included in Ireland U21 squad for European play-off

Connolly has not featured for the senior team since the 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan this time last year.

Updated Sep 15th 2022, 2:45 PM

AARON CONNOLLY HAS been named in the Ireland U21 squad for their vital European Championship play-off with Israel later this month.

aaron-connolly Aaron Connolly Source: James Crombie/INPHO

First reported by The42, Jim Crawford has included the forward in his squad. Connolly is currently on loan with Venezia in Serie B and has accepted a call-up.

The 22-year-old is still eligible for the age group and, despite having earned eight senior caps since 2019, is prepared to drop back down as he continues his bid to revitalise his career.

Joe Redmond of St Patrick’s Athletic has also earned a place in Crawford’s squad, with Walsall defender Oisin McEntee absent through injury.

joe-redmond-celebrates St Pat's Joe Redmond. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Festy Ebosele, who was part of the senior squad for the Ukraine Nations League tie, is named in the U21 group after he was not included in Stephen Kenny’s squad earlier today.

The inclusion of Connolly catches the eye given his own career trajectory. He netted a brace on his full Premier League debut for Brighton against Tottenham Hotspur in 2019, but inconsistency and injury has hampered him since.

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 and he has not featured for the Boys in Green since the 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan this time last year.

Connolly moved to Italy this summer and he also opened up to Irish Football Fan TV about some of his struggles, as well as explaining how conversations with senior manager Stephen Kenny made it clear he needed to try and rediscover his work ethic.

“Physically and mentally, I haven’t felt this strong in a long time, ” Connolly said.

“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.”

Gavin Cooney
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The first leg of Ireland’s European Championship playoff against Israel will take place at Tallaght Stadium on Friday week. 

Republic of Ireland Under-21s Squad

Goalkeepers: Brian Maher (Derry City), Luke McNicholas (Sligo Rovers), David Harrington (Cork City).

Defenders:  Eiran Cashin (Derby County), Festy Ebosele (Udinese), Andy Lyons (Shamrock Rovers), Mark McGuinness (Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Cardiff City), Jake O’Brien (RWD Molenbeek, on loan from Crystal Palace), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers), Joe Redmond (St Patrick’s Athletic), Sean Roughan (Lincoln City)

Midfielders: Finn Azaz (Plymouth Argyle, on loan from Aston Villa), Luca Connell (Barnsley), Conor Coventry (West Ham), Dawson Devoy (MK Dons), Joe Hodge (Wolves), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Ross Tierney (Motherwell)

Forwards: Aaron Connolly (Venezia, on loan from Brighton), Evan Ferguson (Brighton), JJ Kayode (MK Dons), Liam Kerrigan (Como), Ollie O’Neill (Fulham), Mipo Odubeko (Port Vale, on loan from West Ham), Tyreik Wright (Bradford City, on loan from Aston Villa)

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