Stephen Kenny highlights Championship loan dilemma for Brighton striker Aaron Connolly

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny believes a loan deal to the Championship could help Aaron Connolly progress his career

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 1:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 1:18 pm
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny believes Aaron Connolly's career has 'stood still' at Brighton

Connolly, 21, has struggled for regular game time in the Premier League at Brighton and the Ireland coach believes his career has "stood still."

Connolly struggled with injuries and loss of form last season and is behind Neal Maupay, Leo Trossard and Danny Welbeck in the striking pecking order at Albion.

The Ireland striker did score twice in Albion's Carabao Cup victory against Swansea last month and could potentially see more game time in the coming weeks as Welbeck continues to struggle with a hamstring injury.

Kenny will assess the form and fitness of his young charge ahead of Saturday evening’s World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan.

“It’s not been easy for him since, to get back in," said Kenny.

"Sometimes they (Brighton) play with one striker, you’ve got two other international strikers playing ahead of him. You’ve got to wait for opportunities as well. He scored two goals in the Carabao Cup: I was at the game. Two good goals, but he’s not really figured since.

“Opportunities are difficult in the Premier League, some of the younger strikers get to go in the Championship on loan. We were looking at the Swedish Under-21 striker who was at Brighton who has got a lot of goals for Coventry, Viktor Gykores. He played against us in the Under-21s.

“He got an opportunity to go on loan in Europe [St Pauli of Germany] and come back to Championship. Sometimes staying still as a striker as a number three, it’s difficult to progress. Someone like Troy Parrott, even though he’s gone down to League One, he’s finding his feet, getting a few goals and learning the game.”

Ireland have won only one of the 16 games they have played under their new manager and none of his 12 competitive fixtures.

In the process, they have scored just 11 goals with the three most recent coming from defenders John Egan and Shane Duffy and Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Connolly has drawn a blank so far on the international stage despite showing early promise after bursting into the senior team under Kenny’s predecessor Mick McCarthy, although he was unfortunate not to win penalties at crucial stages in both in the opening 3-2 qualifier defeat in Serbia and last month’s heart-breaking reverse in Portugal.

Kenny said: “They were certain penalties that weren’t given and he was fouled twice, so those are the margins from that point of view.”

Norwich's Adam Idah, 20, and 21-year-old Connolly are effectively learning on the job with Ireland with neither enjoying regular football with their Premier League employers, and it is perhaps significant that teenager Troy Parrott, currently on loan at League One MK Dons from Tottenham, has opened his international account, albeit with a friendly double against Andorra.

Kenny said: “Ideally we’d want our young players playing more frequently and all our players playing more frequently. That’s what we want, but sometimes that’s not possible.”