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'How was I meant to know where someone who tested positive was sat?' - Aaron Connolly on plane drama

The Ireland star missed last month’s crucial play-off against Slovakia in frustrating fashion.

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

IRELAND STRIKER Aaron Connolly has recalled the plane incident that caused him to miss Ireland’s crucial play-off against Slovakia last month.

Connolly and team-mate Adam Idah were forced to miss the fixture in Bratislava, as they were deemed close contacts to a member of the FAI backroom staff who tested positive for Covid-19.

It subsequently emerged that Idah and Connolly had sat in the wrong seats for the trip.

The back of the plane had been reserved for the non-playing members of staff, while management and players were allocated seats at the front. The players got on first, and four Irish stars, including Connolly and Idah, took the seats at the back of the plane and were not told to move to their previously designated spot. 

When it was put to him that Connolly should have stuck to the original seating plan, the Brighton star disagreed: “No, and it’s frustrating when people say that. I left my seat, but I didn’t know I was going to sit beside someone who had a positive test. I could have stayed in my seat and someone beside me could have had it and I would have got away with it, as I’d moved down the back.

To see stuff like that is frustrating, even on social media. I moved my seat, but how was I meant to know where someone who tested positive was sat? I don’t look back and think: ‘I wish I had sat there.’ It happened and I’ve moved on.”

After Ireland missed out on Euros progression following an agonising penalty shootout loss, to compound Connolly and Idah’s woe, the FAI staff member’s test proved to be a false positive, meaning they could have played in the fixture without any ill effects after all.

The Galway native admitted it was a frustrating experience having to watch the game from the sidelines.

“It was tough obviously. Like I’ve said, at 20 years of age, I might never get that chance for my country to play in such a big game to get to a tournament. It was obviously frustrating and to find out after that it was a false positive as well was a bit gutting, but that is last month and it’s all about these three games.”

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Ahead of upcoming clashes with England, Wales and Bulgaria, Connolly also spoke about David McGoldrick’s retirement, suggesting he would love to play in his more natural central attacking role now that the Sheffield United man has departed the international scene, while reiterating that he would still be content to feature in a wider position if necessary.

With five caps to his name, Connolly used words like “frustrating” and “alright” to describe his international career thus far, while expressing optimism that there are better days to come, with a well-documented goal drought currently afflicting the Irish side.

Similar words could be applied to Connolly’s club career at present. The youngster burst onto the scene with a brace in his full Premier League debut against Spurs in October 2019, but he’s found the net just twice since then.

A lack of game time this season has similarly been a concern. Since the last international window, Connolly had made just two appearances — both off the bench in the dying minutes — for Brighton.

Of course, it is frustrating to not be playing — I think for any player, it is. But I’m just trying to work hard and keep the head down.

“I think everyone needs minutes to progress, no matter what age, whether 20 or 35.

 “Hopefully, I can get some game time this week and get some minutes under my belt, and if I do get the chance to play when I go back to Brighton, then of course I’ll be ready.”

Originally published at 15.58; Updated at 17.28

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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