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'Gutted to see Mick go' but Connolly full of enthusiasm for Kenny era

The young Brighton attacker has been commenting on the Republic of Ireland’s managerial change.

Aaron Connolly made his senior Republic of Ireland debut away to Georgia last October.
Aaron Connolly made his senior Republic of Ireland debut away to Georgia last October.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AARON CONNOLLY HAS paid tribute to outgoing Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, while also welcoming the beginning of a new era under his successor.

McCarthy handed Connolly his senior international debut last October when he was sprung from the bench in the second half of a goalless draw away to Georgia in the European Championship qualifiers.

When that qualifying campaign resumes with a play-off against Slovakia, Stephen Kenny will be in charge of the Irish team after it was confirmed last weekend that the former Dundalk boss is to take over from McCarthy with immediate effect.

Connolly has experience of playing under both men, having also won seven Ireland U21 caps under Kenny and his assistant Keith Andrews in 2019. 

“I can’t say a bad word about Mick because he gave me my international debut. I’m going to be grateful to him for however long,” the Brighton & Hove Albion striker – who is currently recovering from surgery on an ankle injury – told Galway Bay FM.

“But it’s good that Stephen’s coming in as well. He’s looked after me since I’ve come into the U21 set-up obviously with Keith Andrews, who has just got the assistant manager’s job. It’s brilliant. I’m happy for Stephen and I’m happy for Keith.

“Obviously I think everyone is gutted to see Mick go because he did a good job. Personally I am as well, but Stephen Kenny coming in, he’s a really, really good manager so we can definitely look forward to better days and good days with the Ireland senior team.” 

Connolly is also full of praise for his manager at club level. Graham Potter gave the 20-year-old attacker his Premier League debut earlier this season, with the Galway native going on to mark his first start in the English top-flight with two goals in a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

“He’s been brilliant since he has come in,” Connolly said of Potter, who replaced former Ireland international Chris Hughton as Brighton manager for the 2019-20 season

“On the first day I came back from holiday during the summer, he said he wanted to meet me and I just said to him right away that I didn’t want to go out on loan.

“Once I said that to him, he said he’d give me that chance to stay here and prove myself. Once he gave me that chance and I got along with him and the coaching staff, I had a good pre-season.

“He’s looked after me. Everyone has really, all the players in that group have looked after me. I can’t thank Graham Potter enough for what he’s doing for me and hopefully it continues.”

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Paul Dollery

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