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Rogers Feels Aaron Connolly Inclusion In Irish U21 Squad Is 'A Risky One' For Jim Crawford

Rogers Feels Aaron Connolly Inclusion In Irish U21 Squad Is 'A Risky One' For Jim Crawford
By Gary Connaughton Updated

With two more games to go in their campaign, the Republic of Ireland U21s are on the verge of history.

They will enter their play-off against Israel hoping to qualify for the Euros for the first time, a huge achievement for a team that missed out on that honour by the slimmest of margins a couple of years ago.

Jim Crawford has built a real togetherness within the squad, something that is often difficult to do given the transient nature of international football at U21 level. The squad has been fairly consistent throughout the campaign, although there was one eye-catching inclusion for these games.

Gary Rogers unsure of Aaron Connolly inclusion in U21 squad

Aaron Connolly made his senior international debut back in 2019, a time when it looked as though he was going to make an immediate impact at that level. While he has since added eight Ireland caps to his tally, he has also dropped out of contention for Stephen Kenny's squad in recent times.

That is down to his lack of form at club level. The Galway man struggled to get a look in at Brighton, with a temporary move to Middlesbrough in January proving to be just as fruitless. Now on loan at Serie B side Venezia, he has been a bit-part player so far this season.

Despite his lack of recent form, there is no doubting his talent. Jim Crawford clearly feels he can add something in the tie against Israel, even if bringing him in a settled squad could be considered a risk.

19 September 2022; Aaron Connolly during a Republic of Ireland U21's training session at FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Speaking on the RTÉ soccer podcast, former Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers said that bringing Aaron Connolly into the fold was a 'risky' move from Crawford at this late stage of the qualification campaign.

I think it's a risky one to be honest with you.

That Under-21 squad is fairly well settled. There's a bit of rotation in terms of when there are injuries and players in form or out of form.

Connolly's gone away (to Venezia) and he has played five games, averaging around 30 minutes a game. It's not as if he's in outstanding form.

I just find it's a risky one and does he come in and does he play because he's a senior international or how does he react to maybe not playing?

So it just depends on what Jim's plan is for him. If he plans to start him and play him, I think that's probably an easier route for him. (Does he plan) to bring him in and have him about the squad as an impact player off the bench or does he go with the tried and trusted that he's used already?..

Connolly's form, it's a little bit hit and miss. He's just coming in and I know he's trying to reestablish himself but for games of this magnitude, I just find it's a little bit risky.

But the manager will have a better guide on the personalities within the group and how it will all play out and what his plan is is probably as important as anything.

It will be interesting to see what role Aaron Connolly will play in the two games against Israel, although you'd imagine it is unlikely he will start when the group is as settled as it has been. However, a player of his qualities is certainly an excellent option to have coming off the bench if a goal is needed at some stage.

Considering the way his career has gone over the last 18 months or so, it would be great to see him back playing at a high level in an Ireland jersey. If that can help lead the team to the Euros, then all the better.

SEE ALSO: Why Ireland's Upcoming UEFA Nations League Matches Are So Important

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