Monday 14 October 2019

Connolly in line for dream debut

Brighton starlet Aaron Connolly arriving at Abbottstown for Ireland training. Photo: Sportsfile
Brighton starlet Aaron Connolly arriving at Abbottstown for Ireland training. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Mick McCarthy has asserted that he would have no fear about using Aaron Connolly anywhere across his front three in Tbilisi on Saturday, with Luton's James Collins also a strong contender for a starting berth.

The Irish manager called Brighton teen Connolly into his squad after his starring show against Spurs on Saturday, and has consistently stated that he would only take players out of Stephen Kenny's U-21 team if he planned on using them.

It has put the 19 year-old in line for a dream debut in a vital Euro 2020 qualifier.

Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick has not given up hope of having a role in the crunch double-header with Georgia and Switzerland, but McCarthy has delivered a more positive bulletin on defender Shane Duffy, who is in the same boat.

That would leave a vacancy at centre-forward, with Luton's Collins a strong contender following a starring show off the bench against Bulgaria last month. Connolly plays through the middle for Brighton, yet has operated on the left for Ireland at U-21 level and McCarthy would have no qualms about deploying him on either flank given his attributes.

"We'll be playing 4-3-3 with three up front and he could play in any of those three roles," he said. "You have to be fairly flexible and fluid when you play in those positions, you cannot play in straight lines.

"So I don't doubt that he could play in any one of them. He really has got pace and that scares most people.

"If somebody gets into the Premier League and has done what Aaron has done, well that gives me something to think about," said McCarthy.

"He has proved to be the difference in a really top league, not just the difference in a game against Armenia or Sweden in the U-21s which I have a lot of respect for, but it was not a senior men's international team or the Premier League."

Collins is yet to figure in a competitive game for his country, yet has won the respect of his international manager.

"I'd have no worries about him starting in Tbilisi," said McCarthy.

"He has scored goals wherever he has been and he's doing it now in the Championship, and doing well. He really did change the game when he came on against Bulgaria. I know it's a friendly, but his attitude was great when he came on."

Kevin Long is in line to partner John Egan if Duffy fails to make it back. Matt Doherty is a leading contender for left full with an alternative option involving James McClean reverting to that role.

Irish Independent

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