The Republic of Ireland U-21 team that has put itself on the brink of making history has been largely stable during the current European Championship campaign.
Despite having personnel changes along the way as they navigate a tough group and clinch a playoff, head coach Jim Crawford hasn’t looked to recruit qualified first-team players – even though those options like Gavin Bazunu and Troy Parrott et al are firmly established In the Stephen Kenny Collection.
But before the decisive play-off against Israel – the first leg will take place on Friday in Teltaget RTÉ2 And the RTE player – Added a notable one in the form of Aaron Connolly.
It’s only been three years since the 22-year-old was promoted to high status amid public acclaim under Mick McCarthy and eight major internationals have followed.
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But as a player himself described in detail recentlyHe needed a fresh start at Venice this season on loan from Brighton and at the start of the season in the second division he started making his way to the starting line-up.
With Connolly not considering the seniors in the current UEFA Nations League window as he returns to speed, Crawford said The player was keen to join the Under-21 team to try and help them reach the European Championships for the first time.
“I called Aaron a few times, and we had conversations, and we had a Zoom call,” Crawford said.
“I think it was important to emphasize him and stress him about what led us to the play-offs.
“The group of players we’ve had so far has been fantastic, but I think we all know what Aaron can bring to any team.”
Raw talent is obvious but it speaks volumes RTÉ Football PodcastHowever, former Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers said the inclusion of Connolly carries a small element of risk.
“I think it’s too risky to be honest with you,” he said.
“The U-21 squad is fairly stable. There is a little bit of rotation in terms of when there are injuries and the players are in good shape or not fit.
“Connolly has gone (to Venice) and played five games, with an average of 30 minutes per game. It’s not like he’s in perfect shape.
“I just find it risky and does he come and does he play because he’s a top international or how does he react to maybe he’s not playing?
“So it just depends on Jim’s plan for him. If he’s planning to start playing with him, I think that’s probably an easier path for him. (Are he planning) to bring him in and get him on the team as he affects the player off the bench or does he go with the fitter? And trust that he already used?
“So it’s definitely going to be a little bit more controversial about the team than you would in general because there’s the group and the team and what Jim and his team did in the background was fantastic and they had that continuity.”
The wide positions in the top three overall were outfitted by Liam Kerrigan, currently injured Colm Whelan and Terrick Wright during the group’s campaign, while through the middle was a mix of JJ Caywood, Evan Ferguson and Mibo Odobico.
Connolly has a knack for playing across all of those positions, especially on the left and as a central striker.
Rogers said: “I know Colm Whelan was there injured but you look at Liam Kerrigan who went to Como scoring goals and doing really well. His form is excellent.
“In contrast, Connolly’s level, he’s been hit and miss a little bit. He just came in and I know he’s trying to re-establish himself but for games of this size I find it a bit risky. But the coach will have the best orientation on the characters within the group and how it’s going to turn out. And what his plan is is probably as important as anything.”
Follow the Republic of Ireland vs Scotland match on Saturday (kick-off at 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sports and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player, or listen to national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1
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Follow the Republic of Ireland vs Israel match in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off on Friday (KO 7pm) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sports and the RTÉ News app, or watch the live broadcast on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.