“He wants to play for Ireland.”
Mick McCarthy has said that Luca Connell is committed to playing for the Republic of Ireland and isn’t about to pull a Declan Rice.
The Liverpool-born teenager excelled for his club Bolton Wanderers last season and has represented Ireland at under-17, under-18 and under-19 levels. Connell is highly rated and was a surprise inclusion in McCarthy’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar.
The midfielder impressed the Ireland manager at a training camp in Portugal but was forced to pull out of the squad with a thigh strain. Connell has reportedly attracted interest from the English FA, and is set for a move away from Bolton this summer, possibly to a Premier League side.
Given what happened with Rice and Jack Grealish, Ireland fans would be forgiven for worrying about Connell taking a similar path after withdrawing from the Irish squad.
However, according to McCarthy, the 18-year-old has assured him that he wants to play for Ireland and not England, the country of his birth.
“I asked him, ‘If I put you on for three minutes, in one of the games, somewhere down the line, would you be p***** off with me or do you want to play for Ireland?’
“And he said, ‘I want to play for Ireland, that’s what I want to do’.”
The Ireland manager also said that he didn’t want to push the player into a decision that he would later regret.
“It’s a kind of duty of care as well, he has just turned 18,” said the Ireland manager.
“At the moment, he is full of hype and all that and (he could say) ‘I will play.’ But he gets two minutes and that’s him done, and then he gets another opportunity he might have preferred.
“But he actually told me that’s what he wants to do. It’s funny, because of the set of circumstances that have happened we question everyone now. He wants to play for Ireland.”
When speaking to reporters last week, Connell joked that if he did switch allegiances to England, his Irish grandmother wouldn’t be happy.
“She wouldn’t speak to me if that happened. My mum’s parents are both from Dublin and my Nan is still with us, living in Liverpool.”
Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark takes place next Friday, three days before they host Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium.