Aaron Connolly may never have been given a first-team chance with Brighton had Chris Hughton remained as manager, says Dessie Hutchinson the man who “looked after” Connolly when he initially arrived at the club in 2016.
Hutchinson left Brighton last year after six seasons on their books, deciding to return to Ireland rather than “go down the Leagues in England.”
He played for both Waterford FC and the Waterford senior footballers and last week lined out alongside his brothers Wayne and JJ for Ballygunner in their county hurling final victory over De La Salle, scoring 1-3 from play.
But for Hutchinson, the dream of making it as a professional in England died last year and he reckons that despite his meteoric recent rise, Connolly might have gone the same way had Hughton not been sacked at the end of last season.
"I reckon if Chris Hughton was still there, Aaron might have gone down to the lower leagues in England on loan,” says Hutchinson now.
"That’s probably the way it would have went, I’d imagine. He’s got that bit of luck and in fairness to him he’s taken it.
"It’s been a great couple of weeks for him."
Despite his lack of faith, Hutchinson describes Hughton as an "unbelievable manager," insisting that he "loved working with him.
"But," Hutchinson adds, "he always depended on his experienced players rather than his younger players.
"Now you look at the new manager Graham Potter after going in and he’s blooding in a lot of young lads.
"Different managers have different styles. Obviously, Chris Hughton was fighting to keep Brighton in the Premier League.
"And it is a big risk to throw in a young lad.
"But that’s what a young lads needs – they need to be given a chance and a bit of luck to get in. It’s up to them then whether they take the chance."
Despite playing just one Cup match for Brighton, Hutchinson reckons: "I could have easily stayed around football for another few years, earning a decent enough wage.
"But I knew it was going to come to an end at some stage."
At 22, he still has a full sporting life left to live.
His performance in the Waterford SHC final set tongues wagging about a potential call up to Liam Cahill’s new Waterford hurling set-up.
"I’ll keep the head down with the club at the moment, but the long term goal is definitely to be playing with Waterford," Hutchinson admits.
"I think it’s any young lads dream, in GAA, to play for the county team. And hopefully be successful.
"That’s definitely my aim.
"I played Gaelic football with them towards the start of this year and that gave me some idea what it would be like to go in with the hurlers."
Did that ball travel 20 metres? Yes, no, maybe. Where did it originate from? It looked like it was just short of the 45-metre line. Or on it. This game is fast. Anyway, here's the kick. But did he take more than 15 seconds standing over it? Never mind. It's a point.
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