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19-year-old Brighton star expected to stay with U21s but senior Ireland call-up 'a possibility'

Aaron Connolly has recently played against Man City, Burnley, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Chelsea.

Connolly reacts after a missed chance against Aston Villa.
Connolly reacts after a missed chance against Aston Villa.
Image: Andrew Matthews

PROMISING YOUNG BRIGHTON striker Aaron Connolly is expected to remain with the Ireland U21s over the next fortnight, but a senior call-up by Mick McCarthy has not been ruled out.

The 19-year-old has been thrust into Brighton’s senior squad this season and has featured in all seven of the club’s matches since the end of August.

Connolly started their League Cup victory over Bristol City and was brought off the bench against all of Manchester City, Burnley, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Chelsea in recent weeks.

With Ireland set to be without David McGoldrick for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Switzerland, there have been suggestions that Connolly could potentially earn a senior call-up as cover, due to his recent Premier League experience.

Ireland’s U21s have two important qualifiers of their own this month, facing Italy and Iceland over the next two weeks. As expected, Connolly was today named in Stephen Kenny’s 22-man squad.

aaron-connolly-with-erjanik-ghubasaryan The Galway teenager has been a regular in Stephen Kenny's U21 squad this year. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Ireland U21 boss expects Connolly to remain within his own squad, but said there was always a possibility that he could be sprung into Mick McCarthy’s senior squad should the necessity arise.

“I think the possibility exists. Aaron Connolly could be called up at any time,” Kenny said. “I think he is the most likely of [our] squad at the moment.

“But at the moment he’s in our squad and preparing for the Italian game. There is always a possibility that players get called up to the senior squad.”

Kenny and McCarthy spoke together on Tuesday about the situation, however none of Ireland’s underage options were named in McCarthy’s 24-man squad.

Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire, Alan Judge, Scott Hogan and James Collins are Ireland’s senior attacking options, with Shane Long and the injured McGoldrick notable absentees in the front line.

“We spoke yesterday just in relation to there always being a possibility that Aaron could step up,” Kenny said referring to his conversation with McCarthy. “But at the moment that’s not the case. He’s in the U21s squad for a double-header.

“I [told] Aaron that when he was with me, he was brilliant. I’d love to have him for the games against Italy and Iceland. But if that’s not the case [and he does get called into the senior squad], I’ll also be delighted for him. It’s natural progression, that’s the way I view it.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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