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'It's up to me to make the most of it': 18-year-old Connell thrilled after first senior Ireland call-up

The promising Bolton midfielder linked up with Mick McCarthy’s squad in Portugal this week

Connell pictured during Ireland's training camp in Quinto do Lago.
Connell pictured during Ireland's training camp in Quinto do Lago.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT HAS BEEN a whirlwind week for Luca Connell after receiving his first senior Ireland call-up, but the teenager says he deeply appreciates the massive opportunity given to him by Mick McCarthy.

The midfielder was a surprise inclusion in McCarthy’s 27-man squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar.

Connell enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at senior level with Bolton Wanderers in 2018/19, with the 18-year-old earning 12 appearances for the club after making his debut in the FA Cup back in January.

The Liverpool-born player, who stood out at underage level at last summer’s U17 European Championships, said he was enjoying his first taste of senior international football.

“[It's been] very good,” he said speaking to FAI TV at this week’s training camp in Portugal. “It’s good to get to know the lads, have a little mess about.

Source: FAI TV/YouTube

“Obviously we take it serious, but the little games and that was good to get to know them a bit more.

“It’s good for to get to know the lads’ names and to get back talking to each other. It was good to get to know them a bit more.”

Connell has been capped at U17 and U19 for Ireland. Ireland boss McCarthy said with Conor Hourihane, Glenn Whelan and Josh Cullen all on play-off duty with their respective clubs, Connell had earned his place in this week’s squad.

“You’ve just got to try and take it to reality as quick as you can and just impress, because the week will come and go as quick as anything,” he said reflecting on receiving his first senior call-up.

“You’ve just got to be ready for it and make sure you make the most of it. It’s a massive chance and I appreciate the chance.

Mick McCarthy and Luca Connell Mick McCarthy and Luca Connell pictured during Thursday's training session in Quinto do Lago. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I’m grateful for that but I just think it’s down to me now. I’ve been given the chance and it’s up to me to make the most of it. I’m going to try my best to do that.”

The teenager was a regular in Bolton’s midfield during a tough season for the club away from the playing field, as the Manchester club suffered a significant points deduction after going into administration.

“It was a bad season for the club obviously and for the fans and the staff and the players. But for me on a personal note it was good,” Connell said.

“I got my chance and I believe I took it. The gaffer was happy with me at the end of the season, so I think that’s the main thing. It was great experience and I hope to carry on.”

After back-to-back wins against Gibraltar and Georgia in March, Ireland take on Denmark in Copenhagen on 7 June, before facing Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium three days later.

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Aaron Gallagher

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