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Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly's emotional intelligence puts them on path to self-fulfilment

Two of Ireland’s brightest attacking talents have been candid about the the different struggles they have faced in their young careers.

Troy Parrott (left) and Aaron Connolly.
Troy Parrott (left) and Aaron Connolly.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

TROY PARROTT’S WORDS of wisdom from March of this year carry more weight now when you consider the impact he has made since.

When he linked up for Ireland’s double-header of friendlies with Belgium and Lithuania in the spring, the Tottenham youngster had been earning praise for his attitude and maturity while on loan at MK Dons in League One.

Two uninspiring loan stints at Millwall and Ipswich Town cast somewhat of a shadow over the halo of the golden boy, who left Belvedere for north London at 16.

The fickle nature of football meant the next great hope was already losing some of that lustre before his 21st birthday.

And then an upturn in form began to shift perception again, his sensational stoppage-time winner against Lithuania followed by an even more impressive goal – and all round performance – against Scotland in a 3-0 Nations League win in June.

“Just realising some stuff and growing up as a person and as a player,” Parrott explained of a turning point in his thought process in March.

“I just realised that ultimately you get one shot at this football game, and where I was at the time wasn’t helping me get to where I wanted to get to. I realised I just needed to do more.

troy-parrott-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-second-goal Troy Parrott celebrates his goal against Scotland in June. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I didn’t need to change anything off the pitch. I was living how I should have been. I have my family around me which is good for me so most of it was just one the pitch stuff.”

“I think it was more just something in myself. I obviously wasn’t going to let it go by me, and [needed to] give it 110% every game.”

Parrott was, rightly, lauded for this lightbulb moment of self-awareness that, for so many, can come too late in their careers to make a difference and only leave lingering regret.

He signed a new contract with Spurs last week and will now be tasked with continuing his ascent on loan with Preston North End in the Championship.

His self-analysis doesn’t seem vacuous, and now the challenge will be to eke out every trace of talent to make a mark in England’s second tier by showing an ability to perform consistently in training and then deliver in matches.

He has given himself a platform to succeed, but now the stage awaits to deliver.

It was impossible not to feel a warmth towards Aaron Connolly when he spoke with an eloquence and vulnerability to Irish Football Fan TV about his own struggles yesterday.

Still only 22, a loan deal to Serie B side Venezia is the latest pit-stop for the Galwegian in a bid to resurrect a career that looked to be fading.

“A lot of people know why I haven’t kicked on and I know myself. That’s why this move to Italy was vital, just to get away from the circle I was in back in England, I needed a fresh start.

aaron-connolly-reacts A dejected Aaron Connolly during his last start for Ireland in September 2021. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“My confidence was on the deck when I missed chances and hadn’t been playing. I wasn’t in the right place to go on loan last year. I did it because I wanted to play football but I wish this version of myself right now had shown up at Middlesbrough. It would have been a different story.

“It’s either I keep going in the phase I was going in and eventually I’ll just be completely forgotten. At the minute I’m probably the forgotten man in Irish football and if I kept associating with people I’d been associating with before, I would have completely gone off the scale.”

The circumstances may not have been the same as Parrott’s, but the parallels are clear in needing to realise where the issue lay in order to rectify it.

Connolly turned a blind eye for long enough before it dawned on him that he was the one who needed to make a change, not everyone around him.

Accepting that can be tough at the best of times for people, let alone when you are an elite athlete who must only allow for introspection to go so far so as not to chip away at the self-confidence required to perform.

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“That love for football has probably faded in the last three seasons. Everyone can probably tell by my performances at times. And maybe the way I carried myself on the pitch and sometimes off it,” Connolly continued.

troy-parrott-and-aaron-connolly Parrott (left) and Connolly in Baku last year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Now I’m in a better headspace, you look back at games and think ‘Was I really walking around for that long? Did I really have my head down for this long? Did I really walk around like that?’”

It’s close to a year since Connolly last started for Ireland – against Kazakhstan last September – having previously been a first-choice selection for Stephen Kenny.

The road back to the squad seems to be clear of the biggest obstacle now that he has opened up on those struggles and a desire to get back to basics – something which the Brighton striker wasn’t capable of doing on loan with Middlesbrough during the second half of last season.

Connolly and Parrott have both demonstrated a degree of emotional intelligence that should be lauded.

The hope for these two these young Irish forwards is that they use such realisations as the catalyst to take their careers to a place where it brings self-fulfilment.

- Originally published at 14.59

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