Aaron Connolly says he is determined to help Ireland’s Under-21 team make history and prove they still have the hunger to produce merchandise in a green shirt.
It’s been a turbulent few years for the Galway, who is currently on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion at second-tier side Venice.
Connolly, 22, said it was a “fresh start” after making the switch in July – having blasted into the arena with two superb goals for Brighton against Tottenham in October 2019, his star has since fallen.
Injuries, loss of form and an erratic loan spell at Middlesbrough have caused Connolly to withdraw from Ireland’s last few teams, but the call-up for the massive first leg of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship against Israel on Friday is a chance for Connolly to remind people of what he is capable of.
“It is a great honor,” the attacker told FAI TV.
“I already spoke to John Morling first. [the FAI’s senior football consultant]. It was John who brought me to Brighton when he was the director of the academy there.
“When he mentioned the scale of the game, I couldn’t wait to get involved. It’s just to show people that I don’t take playing for Ireland for granted.
“Maybe some people have had that perception over the past few years. It’s an opportunity to help the under-21 team qualify for the first time ever. [major] Championship and to show people what I can do.
“Yes I have made some mistakes, or so-called mistakes, over the past years.”
“I was a bit surprised that I still qualified to be honest with you. A lot of people have certain things to say about my career so far, but I think they kind of forgot that I am still eligible to play under-21 football.
“Yes, I’ve made some mistakes, or so-called mistakes, over the past years. It’s a chance to go and show people that I’m ready to play, ready to focus on football and, as I said before, helping the U21s.”
🗣 “It’s a chance to show people what I can do” ☘️
– Ferland ⚽️🇮🇪 (FAIreland) September 21 2022
Former Dundalk goalkeeper Jared Rogers Speaking to the RTÉ Soccer Podcast It was a risky move by Jim Crawford to bring a major international player back into the stable U21 squad.
It’s been three years since Connolly played for the Under-21 team. Stephen Kenny was the manager at the time. He’s since graduated to the top job, but will take a keen interest in countering Thalled and The Connolly Show in particular.
Kenny admires his talents but has spoken in the past about Connolly’s need for regular playing time.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played at any level for Ireland,” Connolly added.
“I know most of the players are grown up and other things, so I’m looking forward to starting the game and hopefully we can make a little bit of history for the U21s.
“Stephen was the coach the last time I played for the U21s. But I’ve played first-team games and now my main focus is U21s, but obviously it would be good to put myself back in the plans for Stephen and show him I’m ready to focus and play for Ireland. once again “.
Follow the Republic of Ireland vs Israel match in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off match 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