On Monday, Mick McCarthy sprung a surprise by including 18-year old Bolton midfielder Luca Connell in his squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers with Denmark and Gibraltar.
Connell had represented Ireland at underage level but was included in the senior squad for the first time after breaking into Bolton Wanderers first team in a difficult season for the club.
Date of birth:
April 20th 2001.
Where Is He From?
Luca Connell was born in Liverpool and joined Bolton Wanderers when he was just nine years old.
The 18-year-old is eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland thanks to his grandparents who were born in Dublin.
What Position Does He Play?
Connell is an extremely versatile player who can play in the midfield or in either fullback position. He originally started out as a left-back but has played in a central midfield spot in the Championship with Bolton where he has excelled.
Bolton also deployed him on the left of their midfield in the FA Cup against Bristol City where he provided an assist in defeat.
It’s likely that McCarthy selected him as a central midfielder given that it is his preferred position.
Style Of Play?
As previously mentioned, Connell’s versatility is a massive asset to his game but given his range of passing and confidence on the ball, it’s easy to see why he excels in the midfield role.
Connell isn’t afraid of a tackle, again given his defensive instincts, but it’s on the ball where he truly thrives as a strong runner with a sensational left-foot and the ability to strike from distance.
The 18-year old’s crossing ability could also be a huge asset to Ireland going forward.
How Has He Performed For Bolton This Season?
Connell’s breakthrough into the Bolton first team was one of the few bright sparks in what was a truly abysmal season for the Trotters.
He made his first appearance of the Championship season in January and after impressing in a number of games, found himself starting their last five matches of the season as he became an important part of their first team.
The 18-year old also featured twice in the FA Cup, once at left-back and once on the left side of midfield, making 12 appearances in total for Phil Parkinson’s side.
“He is a player with real quality that he has shown in the games he has played so far,” the Trotters boss told Bolton’s official website in February.
Will He Be At Bolton Next Season?
Almost certainly not.
The Trotters are severely cash strapped and will be playing in League One next season and with Connell out of contract in the summer he almost certainly won’t be resigning.
There are also some big clubs interested in his signature, with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers and Leeds United both reportedly the frontrunners in bringing the 18-year old to their respective clubs.
How Has He Fared At International Level?
Connell was born in England but has represented Ireland at international level since U17s.
The 18-year old made six appearances for the 17s, featuring mainly as a full-back and winning two caps in the 2018 U17s European Championships.
Connell also won three caps for the U18s side at the end of 2018, standing out in midfield as they impressively defeated Holland, while this year he became part of Tom Mohan’s U19s.
The midfielder appeared in all three of Ireland’s qualifying wins as they reached the finals of the U19s European Championships in Armenia this summer.
He Can Represent England, So Will He Become Another Declan Rice?
Hopefully not. Connell has been with Ireland through the international ranks and hearing him speak he is clearly loving his time with the first team.
There had however been reports that England are becoming interested in him given his quality over the past season with Bolton, and that his fast-tracking to the Irish first-team is due to this apparent interest.
Connell did, however, outline that he hasn’t been contacted by England yet and that he wants to take his chance with Ireland should it be afforded to him.
“Yeah, I did see a few of the reports and got told about them but it could mean anything, couldn’t it?,” he says. “There was no direct contact. I’m happy where I am. If the gaffer wants to give me a chance, I’m more than willing to take that.”