Football

Bold Conversation With Brighton Boss Proved Crucial For Connolly

Bold Conversation With Brighton Boss Proved Crucial For Connolly

Thinking back now - five days after scoring a brace on his first Premier League start for Brighton - Aaron Connolly looks back on a conversation with Graham Potter with satisfaction.

There had been talk that the 19-year-old might go out on loan this season in search of first-team experience. That he didn't end up leaving Brighton temporarily was partially down to a conversation which he had with Potter during pre-season.

"When I came back from holidays, I went to meet the gaffer in Brighton," Connolly told FAI TV.

"I just said to him, 'I don't want to go out on loan, I want to stay here and try to fight for a place in the first-team'.

"He reacted well. That's what he wanted to hear, I'd say, instead of taking the easy option and going out on loan. I just let him know that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to stay in Brighton and play in the Premier League.

"It looks like it was a good decision to say that to him."

Subsequent to that conversation, Brighton signed French forward Neal Maupay from Brentford.

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"Even after that, the gaffer and [Brighton technical director] Dan Ashworth put my mind at ease, saying, 'Listen, we've brought him in but it's not to replace you or keep you out of the squad'," said Connolly.

Two or three weeks later, I'm playing up top with Neal.

The club's looked after me from the first day I've come over. This year, the gaffer and Dan Ashworth and his assistants, they've looked after me well. Hopefully, I can repay their trust.

A call-up to the Ireland senior team swiftly followed his performance against Spurs. When word came from Brighton that Mick McCarthy was looking for his phone number, Connolly initially thought it was a joke.

"I'd literally just dropped my dad to Gatwick and was on the way back - I'd just got to my girlfriend's house," he said.

"One of the boys from Brighton texted me and said that the gaffer was looking for my number. I kind of thought somebody was having a wind-up. After a few minutes I realised that maybe it is the gaffer calling.

"I rang my parents straight away, rang my dad who was sitting in the airport. They were both shocked. I was named in the provisional squad but didn't expect to be called in, when I was, they were both proud."

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Now in his fourth season with Brighton, a club with a strong Irish contingent, Connolly wants to help those young players crossing the sea.

"In every dressing room, I've sat beside an Irish person.

"There's a lot of Irish players in the U18s. I feel like it's my job to look after them like everyone else looked after me.

"There's James Furlong, Evan Ferguson from Bohs came over. A couple of the boys took him for lunch just to tell him about the place. Dessie Hutchinson did that for me when I first came over and it made me feel at home.

"It was daunting for me when I first came over. I think everyone knows how to feels to come into a new place. You have to get them out of their shells as quickly as possible. All the boys did that with me."

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See Also: Four Irish Players To Watch Out For In Tonight's U21 Qualifier

PJ Browne
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