Belfast Telegraph

Connolly's rise into Republic's senior side is no shock: Kenny

Big talent: Aaron Connolly
Big talent: Aaron Connolly

By Damian Spellman

Stephen Kenny has admitted Aaron Connolly's elevation to the senior Republic of Ireland squad came as no surprise to him.

The 19-year-old Brighton forward was initially named in Kenny's Under-21s squad for their European Championship qualifiers against Italy and Iceland, but was swiftly drafted into McCarthy's ranks after scoring twice in Brighton's 3-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

Asked if he was dreading a call from the Yorkshireman, former Derry City boss Kenny said: "No, I wasn't dreading it. We were in contact and it wasn't a shock by any stretch of the imagination.

"He's been playing really well, he's lighting up the matches he's come into for the international team and at club level and he took his goals brilliantly on Saturday, so he deserves his call-up and we sincerely wish him well."

Connolly will be a big miss for the Under-21s having starred in their victories over Armenia and Sweden last month, but he will embark upon a new adventure as the Republic attempt to strengthen their grip on Euro 2020 qualification in Georgia and Switzerland.

Kenny said: "We want to have our strongest players available at Under-21 level to try to compete with the likes of Italy, who have got tremendous resources and a great panel of players.

"But at the same time, we're delighted to see players go and become senior internationals. That's the overall objective, so we're delighted."

Republic midfielder Conor Hourihane added: "He runs channels really well, he chases lost causes, doesn't give the centre-halves any time on the ball. He's really quick, really sharp, a nuisance really."

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