Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has expanded on why he called 19-year-old Brighton striker Aaron Connolly into his squad, outlining what he admires about the Galway native’s game.
Connolly was initially not included in the 24-man squad selected by McCarthy last week but was called up thanks in part to an injury to Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis in addition to his sensational brace against Tottenham on his Premier League debut.
The 19-year-old’s pace and finishing ability gave the Spurs defence a torrid time at the Amex on Saturday morning and McCarthy will be hoping he can have a similar impact should he get minutes against the likes of Georgia and Switzerland.
Speaking as his side prepare to head off to Tbilisi on Thursday, McCarthy explained that he was impressed by Connolly’s performance at the weekend, outlining that he wouldn’t have included him if he thought it would be too much of a step up for the Galway native.
“I wouldn’t have put him in the squad if I thought it was too big of a leap,” he began.
“I’ve seen his performance since, I didn’t at the time. He was excellent, his goals were both very good. People talk about his second one I thought his first one was brilliant, his movement was good, he got across the defender and then having had it saved he had the presence to spin and put it in the net.
“I saw him against Armenia and I was really impressed by him that day playing on the left. He really has got some personality on the pitch that’s for sure.”
Ireland go into the games against Georgia and Switzerland, both away from home, knowing that two positive results will see them take a huge leap towards Euro 2020 qualification.
McCarthy had previously outlined that a difficult away game against Georgia was not a place for debutants but he conceded that he felt his mantra of “if you’re playing and scoring regularly in the Premier League, then you’ll get a chance,” neutralises those comments.
“I also said that if someone gets in the first team in the Premier League and is playing well and scoring goals then he has every chance of getting a chance in the team so that sort of neutralises the first comment if you like (about Georgia not being a game for debutants) in my head.
“This was all on the back of Aaron playing in the 21s and scoring or Troy Parrott doing the same. I’ve said all along that if they’re in the Premier League playing well and scoring goals then they’ll get a chance.”
Connolly has proven that he can play either through the middle or left of a three man attack, occupying both roles for club and country.
His pace and direct running represent problems for any defence and McCarthy highlighted those traits as well as his “aggression” as parts of Connolly’s game that he admires.
“Robbie (Keane) sent me a message saying he’d scored two goals and done really well. We’ve discussed it a little bit, his performance. He’s very quick to start with, he’s direct and he’s happy to take people on. His movement is very good, his hold-up play is very good. He plays with personality and he has a good bit of aggression in him which I really like.
McCarthy also expanded on Connolly’s personality on the field.
“He looks like he’s enjoying it, he looks like he’s thriving on it, like he really wants to be out there. He puts it up to the opposition as well, that’s what I mean by personality.
“Some people go out there and play it’s a but like ‘well I’m just playing’ whereas others have a bit more personality.”
You can watch McCarthy speak about Connolly here:
"He's very quick, he's very direct and he takes people on. His movement is very good. He plays with personality and he's got a bit of aggression in him."
McCarthy on what Aaron Connolly could bring to the Ireland team 🇮🇪👊
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) October 7, 2019