What is it about Aaron Connolly?
Undoubtedly, Aaron Connolly is one of Ireland’s brightest talents; but the narrative around him is a strange one, and he will be looking to put that to one side while he is on loan at Championship side Middlesbrough.
At just 21, the Galwegian has more than enough time to put things right, especially with the clear ability he has shown glimpses of during his young career.
Not so long ago, the young Irishman was scoring braces against Spurs, and proving himself to be a real thorn in any top-flight defence.
But strangely, he is now seen to be at a crossroads of sorts in his career, with few believing in him as much as they did in 2019. And most of that thought-process is deeply unfair, especially to a player who is still 21.
Aaron Connolly’s next step on loan at Middlesbrough.
Speaking after making his move to Middlesbrough complete, Connolly spoke of his delight at being able to play first-team football again.
And that was something he was unable to do at Brighton, as he was squeezed out of the starting XI at the Amex Stadium by the Seagulls’ ever-improving side.
“I’m excited to get playing and enjoying football again,” Connolly said after sealing his switch. “I came up a couple of days ago and there seems to be a good feel about the place. It’s a good time to be here as they’re on a good run.
“I didn’t need much persuasion to come here. I spoke to the gaffer on Christmas Eve and I didn’t need to look elsewhere. I’m glad to have made that decision.”
His new manager, however, Chris Wilder also believes in his ability, with the ex-Sheffield United boss keen to bring him to Teeside.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 19, 2020
And that could be just what he needs, as he looks to catapult himself back into international fold, a place where he seemed safe enough in up until a few months ago.
But for now, Connolly is at a strange phase of his career, a point in which where he is being written off to an extent.
While some may feel that is fair, it really isn’t. Connolly is just 21, and has a whole career ahead of himself, contrary to public opinion.
And yes, he misses chances, and he also can be accused of wasting good opportunities at times, but that should not take away from his clear ability.
But saying that, this move to Middlesbrough is no ‘last chance saloon’ for the 21-year-old, who can still play for Jim Crawford’s Ireland U21s.
Many, however, seem to forget that, as Connolly looks to add to his burgeoning reputation as one of Ireland’s most exciting forwards.
And should he be able to breathe at Middlesbrough without playing in the pressure cooker of the Premier League, it should do him more good than harm, regardless of dropping a perceived level or not.
— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) January 4, 2022
If anything, this is a good move for Connolly, and should he impress, it will provide Stephen Kenny with another welcome attacking headache in 2022.
Perhaps coming through an Ireland U21 side that promised so much spoiled things a tad in terms of expectation, but the facts remain. Aaron Connolly needed a loan move.
But he is 21, not 31.
And for a player at that age to require a loan move away from the Premier League to get game-time is nothing to be ashamed of.
Some, however, need to be reminded about that.