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In-form Irish striker Connolly stretchered off against Liverpool's second string

Liverpool’s Ki-Jana Hoever was shown a red card earlier in the game for a foul on the Ireland U19 international.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Aaron Connolly.
Brighton & Hove Albion's Aaron Connolly.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

AARON CONNOLLY IS hoping to avoid a lengthy lay-off after he left the field on a stretcher in the latter stages of last night’s game between the U23 sides of Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Connolly tweeted afterwards that he sustained a hamstring injury, but the 18-year-old Brighton striker said he’ll “hopefully be back soon” as he aims to continue his encouraging progress.

The Galway native, who has made two first-team appearances for Brighton in the Carabao Cup, has scored 17 times at U23 level this season. He was also named Premier League 2 player of the month for November.

Connolly limped off in the 24th minute as Brighton’s second string drew 2-2 with Arsenal last week. He was back in the starting line-up for last night’s meeting with Liverpool, but another injury setback ensured that he again didn’t last the 90 minutes.

A Liverpool side that included Irish trio Caoimhín Kelleher, Corey Whelan and Conor Masterson (who came off the bench) took a 12th-minute lead at Kirkby through Rafa Camacho. With four minutes remaining, Haydon Roberts snatched a draw for Brighton, who also had ex-Bohemians defender Warren O’Hora in their line-up.

Liverpool had been reduced to 10 men in the 20th minute. Sixteen-year-old defender Ki-Jana Hoever, who became the Reds’ youngest ever FA Cup player in last week’s defeat to Wolves, was shown a straight red card for a foul on Connolly just outside the box.

Brighton’s first-team manager Chris Hughton admitted recently that the Premier League club would consider allowing Connolly to leave on loan during the January transfer window in order for him to gain some valuable senior experience.

The Ireland U19 international is understood to have been a target for League One promotion chasers Luton Town. It remains to be seen if this injury setback — coupled with the departure of Luton manager Nathan Jones for Stoke City — will scupper such a move.

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Paul Dollery

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