Tuesday 16 July 2019

This is an experience that money can't buy - Connell

Luca Connell. Photo: Sportsfile
Luca Connell. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Luca Connell's story is only just beginning. He's a talented player with a personality that seems to make him comfortable with the spotlight.

There are 18-year-old footballers who spend their first round of interviews staring at their feet and shuffling uncomfortably but Connell was relaxed as he reflected on his sudden call to the Ireland squad and the questions that go with it.

The case of Declan Rice has made it hard for players in his position.

Amid reported interest from the English FA, Connell stopped short of saying that he would never take a call from them.

"I'm happy where I am the minute," said the affable Scouser with a haircut that wouldn't look out of place in his native city's music scene.

"I did see a few of the reports and got told about them but it could mean anything, couldn't it?"

If that cagey response fuelled scepticism, it was soon countered by the assertion that he would have no hesitation about sticking around for the competitive games with Denmark and Gibraltar which this week's training camp in Portugal is building towards.

Mick McCarthy indicated yesterday that the versatile Bolton midfielder would be going home from Quinta do Lago. There was mention of a summer holiday that was booked.

Cancelled

It now transpires that Connell has cancelled it. He smiles when it's put to him that his girlfriend might soon be his ex now that their Dubai trip is on the back-burner.

"I've cancelled that just in case the gaffer wants me to go," he says. "That's no problem. It's a lot of money but this is an experience that money can't buy. That's no problem for me."

Chances are that Connell will not be stuck for cash if he continues his current rate of progression.

The mobile left-footer made 15 appearances for troubled Bolton as they fell through the Championship trap door with the club's descent into administration meaning they will kick off next year in League One with a points deduction.

Numerous clubs have been linked with a swoop for Connell, including the Rangers side managed by his fellow Liverpudlian Steven Gerrard.

Connell is an Everton fan who was a bit star-struck to meet Seamus Coleman on Tuesday, yet Gerrard was the player he looked to as a budding midfielder.

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Spurs, Southampton, Burnley and Brighton are among those in the mix and, reading between the lines, it's safe to assume that Connell will be moving on.

He's out of contract at the end of June and his agent is keeping on top of his situation.

For all that he was enjoying the opportunity to play at Bolton, he wasn't oblivious to the impact of cash problems on senior pros and staff.

"A lot of them have kids and mortgages, they need to put food on the table. If they're not getting paid - even on their wages - it's not easy to afford, the cars, the kid, their wife and all of that. It's hard to crack on but I've got to make a career for myself."

In an ideal world, he would go with the flow but real-life demands more instant decisions.

For his family, this Ireland call was a surprise. McCarthy called his father Andrew on Sunday with the news. Connell has been in the set-up from U-16 level through the ranks and was in the squad that was controversially knocked out of last summer's Euro U-17 finals when goalie Jimmy Corcoran was sent off during the penalty shoot-out.

His Irish link is through his Dublin-born grandparents on his mother's side who actually met on a holiday in Blackpool when they were both there with their own friends.

"Margaret and Peter Simpson," he says, "They met there and the rest is history. They moved to Liverpool then. My nan is still with us, my granddad has passed away."

Margaret would be urging him to turn down any English advances then? "She wouldn't be speaking to me neither," he grins, before stating again that he would commit in the next fortnight if the chance was offered. "I wouldn't hold back. I've to take any opportunity that I can.

"It's once in a lifetime so if you turn that down then not just the gaffer but the team wouldn't be happy with you. I'd take the chance, yeah."

McCarthy will use this week to try and assess if it's a gamble that is worth taking.

Irish Independent

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