'I'm certain he will be involved at some stage' - McCarthy ready to throw Connolly in at deep end
A week after making a sensational English Premier League debut, Aaron Connolly is in line to make a first international appearance in Ireland's crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia tomorrow.
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has been impressed with the 19-year-old Brighton striker's integration into the senior set-up this week and has indicated he would have no hesitation throwing Connolly into the action in Tbilisi.
"He doesn't look nervous, he doesn't look as though he is being cautious around everybody. He's got on with it and impressed everybody," said the Ireland boss ahead of a crucial double-header.
"I was asked if I had players in front of him and, yes, I have. Yes, he could get thrown in, whether it's from the start . . . I'm certain he will be involved at some stage."
Connolly is still trying to come to terms with a remarkable week after scoring twice against Tottenham in Brighton's 3-0 win before getting an international call-up, which he initially thought was a "wind-up".
"I'd just arrived in my girlfriend's house and a team-mate had said the Ireland manager had been on looking for my number," he said. "I thought it was a wind-up. But it was true. I rang my parents and they were just shocked. They didn't expect it either.
"It was the proudest thing any 19-year-old Irish kid who wants to play for his country could experience."
The Galway man hopes to make the breakthrough on the biggest stage of all with David McGoldrick's absence raising the chances of another memorable debut.
"It's been tough and intense," he says of Irish training, "but a bit easier to settle in because I have that first-team experience at Brighton."