Connolly (who is still eligible at the age of 22) has not played for Jim Crawford’s team in the playoffs yet as he made the first squad, but he has yet to score a major international goal in his eight matches so far, the last of which came in January 2021.
“In terms of international football, Aaron was a bit of a driftwood as he wasn’t with the first team or the 21 team,” Crawford said.
“He can score goals, he’s a real threat, so having him at the age of 21 for this match is fantastic. For himself, it’s a chance to show people that he’s still around and that he can produce in the big games. That’s what this playoff is a great stage. for him to participate in it.”
“He did an interview a few weeks ago that I looked at and showed a level of maturity, he seemed remorseful about how he acted, whether it was at Brighton or what you have.
“It was something that got me thinking. I involved someone in the process to get in touch with him and just asked if he was interested in playing with 21s. The answer I got was ‘Yes, sure.’ I put on a green shirt again.
“That was a great start.”
Since leaving Brighton’s new pastures in Venice at Serie B club Venice, the Gallagher has made five league appearances but has yet to find the net.
“I called Aaron a few times, we had conversations, we had the Zoom call yesterday. I think it was important to emphasize him and stress him about what got us into 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.”
Connolly’s professionalism has been questioned by those inside the game, but he has now been given a chance to right his international career, albeit at a sub-21 level.
“We can’t neglect players with such talent and ability and take them out. It’s a chance for him to prove his worth because he wants to play for the Republic of Ireland – and that’s a great platform and a great platform for him to show Stephen that he’s ready to get back into the first team. [The] Players on the Under-21 team can learn from that.”
Currently, Crawford’s reign at the helm of the Under-21 operation has come to an end after the away play-off against Israel. A new contract has yet to be signed, but he insisted that all focus was on getting the Irish Under-21 men’s team into their first-ever major tournament.
“[We are] “We’re still negotiating and that’s where we are,” Crawford said.
“I only have the ability to focus on the U-21 match. This is where I focus and I have a real tight focus on that at the moment. I’m sure it will be done sooner rather than later but at this moment in time I will focus on these two games the next two.”
Asked if he was frustrated by not closing the deal before joining an international camp.
“Look at a perfect world, yes, you would like it but it isn’t and these things happen in life. You negotiate and it certainly wouldn’t bother me.
“These matches are too big to worry about. I know something will be done. I am sure we can come to an agreement but at this point nothing has been done.
“But I’ve stopped it now, there are other people dealing with it at this time. Nothing will stand in my way in preparing for Israel.”
One of the major blows for Crawford’s side is the dismissal of midfielder Gavin Kilkenny due to injury.
Currently on loan to Stoke City, Kilkenny has started all but one of the group’s matches so far, but he tore his second-degree knee and will miss upcoming matches.
St Patrick’s Athletic captain Joe Redmond has taken his place in the team as Oisin McEntee has been left out after sustaining an injury in the home win against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On one occasion, a VIP Luca Connell was back in the fold after leaving a horror spell at Celtic to go and play for Barnsley in the Premier League.
“With Luca, he was with Celtic at the time, he went on loan to a third-tier team in Scotland. I didn’t think that was great for his development and he agreed. He was able to change everything when he went to Barnsley, he was playing every week.
“I went to see him play against League One Ipswich and he did really well. He has a great left foot, he’s great passing the ball, he’s aggressive and again he has another player I think if he’s been with Barnsley a lot earlier he would have been involved. In our teams much more.
“He’s over the moon to participate. His grandparents are from Dublin and I know Nan would be extraordinarily proud as he is part of an under-21 international against Israel.”
Udinese player Festy Ebosele was also dropped from the first team to the Under-21 squad which will be a boost to Crawford’s selection.
The first leg of the qualifiers will take place at Tallaght Stadium on Friday, September 23, with over 7,000 people already secured their seats. The return leg is scheduled at Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, Israel on Tuesday, September 27.
Republic of Ireland men’s national under-21 team
goalkeepers: David Harrington (Cork City), Brian Maher (Derry City), Luke McNicolas (Sligo Rovers)
Defenders: Iran Kachin (Derby County), Veste Ibossel (Udinese), Andy Lyons (Shamrock Rovers), Mark McGuinness (Sheffield Wednesday, on loan from Cardiff City), Jake O’Brien (RWD Molenbeek, on loan from Crystal Palace), me or . Connor (Tranmere Rovers), Joe Redmond (St. Patrick’s Athlete), Sean Rogan (Lincoln City)
Midfielders: Finn Azaz (Plymouth Argyle, on loan from Aston Villa), Luca Connell (Barnsley), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Dawson Defoe (MK Dons), Joe Hodge (Wolverhampton), Will Smallbone (Stoke City, for example) On loan from Southampton, Ross Tierney (Motherwell).
Attackers: Aaron Connolly (Venice, on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion), Evan Ferguson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Joshua Caywood (MK Dons, on loan from Rotherham United), Liam Kerrigan (Como 1907), Ole O’Neill (Fulham), Mipo Odobico (Port Vale, on loan from West Ham United), Terek Wright (Bradford City, on loan from Aston Villa).