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'As an Irish kid, you don't grow up thinking: I'd love to play at Wembley'

Aaron Connolly has played down the hype surrounding Ireland’s upcoming fixture with England.

Aaron Connolly (file pic).
Aaron Connolly (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

FOR SOME YOUNG footballers, it is a lifelong dream to play at Wembley, but not so for Aaron Connolly.

The 20-year-old Galway native played down the hype surrounding Thursday’s upcoming friendly against England.

“Personally, I haven’t grown up saying that I want to play at Wembley because obviously as an Irish kid, you don’t grow up thinking, ‘I’d love to play at Wembley,’” he told reporters on Monday.

“For me, it’s just another game. It’s a big game, obviously, to play against England, but personally, it wouldn’t have been a dream of mine to play at Wembley, no.”

And asked whether this week’s fixture was ‘more’ than just a friendly, Connolly again was refusing to get carried away.

“I’m not sure. I will leave that up to the Irish fans and stuff like that. I’m just focussed on another game, a big game, and a big one for both countries. I’m sure the Irish fans will see it differently. But as players, we just want to go out and play and perform.”

He continued: “I am bothered [about the game], and I think everyone else is. I’m not going to go back into the history of something I don’t really understand. It’s a game for my country against a top international side.”

In addition, when it was put to him that perhaps Connolly comes from a generation where Ireland-England games don’t have the same significance as they would for older fans with longer memories, he responded: “It could be. The gaffer touched on it in the meeting that Darren Randolph was the only one [in the squad] born back in 1988, when Ireland beat England [at the Euros].

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“So maybe it is a bit lost on me, as I don’t really understand most of what has gone on or happened.”

Connolly also denied there was any extra pressure on himself and the younger strikers, after another forward David McGoldrick — one of the first names on the team-sheet of late — recently announced his international retirement.

It’s nice to be, at 20 years of age and 19 for Adam [Idah] to have pressure like that on you and fans and coaches expecting things of you. I’m never going to shy away from that. I like the way people put pressure on, because it makes you feel wanted and they obviously think you can do something great. I’m sure me and Adam will have no problem with that.”

Meanwhile, Connolly’s two Brighton team-mates — Jayson Molumby and Shane Duffy — have had difficult seasons so far.

Despite featuring for Ireland recently, Molumby is still waiting to make a Premier League debut and appears some way off the first XI at his club.

And after losing his place in the Brighton team, Duffy has gone on loan to Celtic, but was dropped for their game with Motherwell at the weekend, having received some criticism for his performances.

He’s a brilliant centre-half and he has shown that for many, many years so a couple of games is not going to change what everyone thinks of him,” Connolly said. “He’s shown for Ireland how good he is and he’s shown for Brighton how good he was, and how highly rated he was. Two games, from what I have seen anyway, no, I know how good he is and I’m sure he will show that.”

On Molumby, he added: “He’s highly rated at Brighton and I’m sure he’s frustrated himself at the lack of minutes. I’m sure he’s going to show how good he is this week and maybe push himself into the manager’s plans.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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