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Aaron knows the score Seagulls striker Connolly gives honest appraisal of his performance against the Finns

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Irish striker Aaron Connolly was honest about his performance after the clash in Helsinki

Irish striker Aaron Connolly was honest about his performance after the clash in Helsinki

PA

Irish striker Aaron Connolly was honest about his performance after the clash in Helsinki

Stephen Kenny would have been screaming it on the inside. Every Republic of Ireland fan watching at home would not have held it in, no doubt standing on their feet in their sitting rooms, shouting at the television screens.

If the pubs were open, those perched at the bar would all have been joining the chorus.

“Lift your head! Lift your head!”

“Pass it! Pass it!”

There might even have been an expletive thrown in for good measure.

It was the 57th minute when a razor-sharp Ireland counter attack so excruciatingly encapsulated the two sides of Aaron Connolly at this stage of his career.

Full of promise and potential with plenty still to deliver.

THROWING

After throwing bodies at the ball in their own box to clear danger, substitute Robbie Brady took hold of possession and picked out a clever pass to the forward.

Connolly had been moved to the central striker position eight minutes into the second half, having been a sporadic threat on the left in the opening 45.

The switch almost paid immediate dividends, as he isolated centre back Paulus Arajuur after peeling away to the right flank near the halfway line.

He beat the Finnish centre back for pace and even when the covering Joona Toivio got close, Connolly was still in control.

As the angle tightened and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky closed off the space at the near post, the 20-year-old opted to shoot regardless.

If he had taken even a split second to look for support he would have seen Daryl Horgan had halted his run and was all on his own for what would have been a tap in – even for a player in a team that has scored just once in five games.

At the back post, Jeff Hendrick was also loitering – had Connolly felt a deft chip was on.

The easiest ball of all was right beside him, yet he didn’t lift his head. He didn’t pass it.

He had a knowing glance at the Ireland bench after his shot was saved and the frustration was clear.

Even more so after the game when he had a chance to watch it back.

“Selfish at times,” he accepted.

“I probably should have squared one to Daryl. I tried to go at a tight angle and it’s those kind of moments that cost us the game.

“I need to start looking at that side of my game and gain some awareness because it’s cost us, I think.

“As a striker you need to be selfish but at times you need to know when to shoot and when to pass.

“At the time I thought it was the best thing to shoot but, looking back, I definitely should have squared it.

“I think we deserved to win that game. We lost it at the back and they punished us. It’s another game we haven’t scored in.

“I feel like there will be a break and we will put one in but it doesn’t look like it’s coming at the minute,” Connolly added.

Such an honest appraisal bodes well for the 20-year-old’s future development. And it was clear from his post-match remarks that the circumstances surrounding his unavailability for last week’s play-off defeat to Slovakia have left a scare.

Connolly, along with teammate Adam Idah, were ruled out of the Euro 2020 showdown because they were deemed to be close contacts of an FAI staff member who tested positive for Covid-19 on the morning of the game in Bratislava.

It was later confirmed to be a false positive, meaning the pair were entitled to play, yet by the time that was discovered the damage was done.

“Frustrating. That’s all I can say. In the UK, that’s rules, I play the game.

false

“(I was) 1.9 metres away from somebody who had a false positive.

“I don’t want to go into it too much but to miss a game like that, I might never get the chance to play in a game like that again so I can’t really put it into words how frustrating it is.”

This was another night he will learn from, and the hope will be that Kenny does to.

He started with a front three of Connolly, Sean Maguire and Horgan. The latter provided a spark but faded as the game wore on. That he was not part of the original squad and was drafted in as a replacement for Connolly following the Covid test debacle gives an idea of where he is in the pecking order. Maguire just doesn’t possess the guile Kenny is looking for to lead the attack and he missed his opportunity to lay down a marker here as Ireland once again drew a blank.

Of the three, Connolly is the one who looks destined to have an international future. But only if he delivers on his promise to examine his own shortcomings with his end product.

Online Editors