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No place for Connolly in Ireland squad as Portugal gear up for Dublin date

Stephen Kenny can call on captain Seamus Coleman, as well as midfielders Jayson Molumby and Alan Browne, as Ronaldo prepares to come to town.

Aaron Connolly has not made the cut.
Aaron Connolly has not made the cut.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Nov 4th 2021, 1:29 PM

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND captain Seamus Coleman has returned for the final pair of World Cup qualifiers next week but there is no place for Brighton’s Aaron Connolly.

The Boys in Green skipper missed the most recent international window because of injury but has been recalled along with midfielders Jayson Molumby and Alan Browne.

That duo missed the win away to Azerbaijan and Qatar rout because of suspension, yet the omission of Connolly, who didn’t earn any minutes from the bench in Baku or Dublin.

The young Brighton forward has struggled for game time in the Premier League this season and Kenny revealed on Tuesday how a loan move in the summer failed to materialise.

Kenny confirmed today that Connolly misses out with a heel injury, saying so shortly after his club manager, Graham Potter, muddied the waters by saying his omission was a selection decision on Kenny’s behalf. 

While Potter confirmed Connolly missed last weekend’s game with Liverpool because of a heel injury, he added, “I imagine he would be frustrated and disappointed not to play for his country, because he wants to do that, but at the same time we respect the decision of Stephen. That’s life. You have to perform, you have to play, you have to accept that the coach makes those decisions. That’s what Aaron does.”

When that was put to Kenny, the Irish manager replied,

“I spoke to Graham mid week. I have a good relationship with Graham and he hasn’t been training for Brighton. I spoke to Aaron yesterday myself and we both decided – he didn’t feel he was really right – although technically, he could possibly be available next Thursday for selection but he hasn’t been able to train or he hasn’t been training at all. He feels sore.”

Wigan Athletic striker Will Keane, who was included last time out but also didn’t feature in either game, has done enough to keep his place.

As expected, experienced midfielder Robbie Brady has not been included as he has yet to regain match fitness following his free transfer to Bournemouth last week.

While Ireland’s hopes of reaching Qatar 2022 are already dead in the water following a turbulent start to the group, Aviva Stadium is a sell out for the visit of Portugal next Thursday.

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Co come to Dublin battling it out with Serbia for top spot and automatic qualification, and the attraction of the Manchester United superstar, combined with the emergence of a vibrant new Irish squad, has led to increased demand for what will be the first capacity attendance since Covid-19.

Portugal have been able to bring midfielder Renato Sanchez back into their fold following injury, while playmaker Joao Felix is also in the mix having been absent when Ronaldo struck two late goals to secure a 2-1 win over Ireland in Faro in September.

First published today at 13.00, updated at 16.28 with Stephen Kenny quotes 

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