'The proudest moment of my career... my parents were there behind the goal as well'

Aaron Connolly marked his full debut for Brighton & Hove Albion with a goal in last night’s Carabao Cup win.

AARON CONNOLLY’S MOTHER and father made the journey from Galway to Bristol to see their son score for Brighton & Hove Albion as the Premier League club advanced to the third round of the Carabao Cup last night.

In his full senior debut for the Seagulls, Connolly displayed a poacher’s instinct to grab the opening goal of the game in the 55th minute of a 2-1 win away to Bristol Rovers.

bristol-rovers-v-brighton-and-hove-albion-carabao-cup-second-round-memorial-stadium Aaron Connolly celebrates after scoring against Bristol Rovers. Source: David Davies

The 19-year-old, who previously made a couple of brief substitute appearances in the competition, capitalised on his first opportunity to impress new manager Graham Potter, with 56% of the club’s supporters voting him their man of the match. 

“Aaron’s got that knack of scoring, which is a nice knack to have,” Potter said of the Irish youngster, who was named Player of the Season in Premier League 2 — the equivalent of the old reserve league — for the 2018-19 campaign.

“He likes to run in behind and threatens the back line of defenders, playing off the shoulder. He’s a young lad with a lot to learn, of course, but he worked really well with us in pre-season and it was important for him to play.”

After being rewarded with a new three-year contract last January, Connolly was sent out on loan to Luton Town. However, an injury setback robbed him of the chance to make a significant impact for the eventual League One champions.

Having featured in all five of the Republic of Ireland U21 side’s games at the Toulon Tournament in June — during which he scored in the 4-1 win against China — the Galway native is expected to be included when Stephen Kenny names his squad today for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden. 

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“It was a special night because it’s what I’ve been working for ever since I came over here,” Connolly said after the win over Bristol Rovers.

“It’s the proudest moment of my career so far and it was made even better because my parents were there behind the goal as well. There’s no better scenario for me. Thankfully they came over and it’s all worked out.”

He added: “I’m just glad to have got my full debut and now it’s about getting out there again. I feel like I’ve started the season well in Premier League 2 and that’s what you want as a striker.”

With Florin Andone suspended and Jurgen Locadia expected to leave on loan, Connolly could now come into contention for a Premier League debut at champions Manchester City on Saturday.

When asked last night if the former Mervue United player will stay with his parent club or be sent out on loan again, Graham Potter said: “He’s in our group and he’s competing for a spot in our matchday squad. Training with our players every day is of big benefit to him, and obviously games like this can help him.” 

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