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Aaron Connolly insists he can halt his career slide by changing ways in Italy

Aaron Connolly has opened up on struggles

Aaron Connolly has opened up on struggles© CameraSport via Getty Images

Daniel McDonnellIndependent.ie

Aaron Connolly believes a move to Italy and cutting out bad influences in his life can stop him from becoming the forgotten man of Irish football.

Connolly is adjusting to a new environment after agreeing a loan move from Brighton to Venezia, and the Galwegian has suggested he might have played his last game for the Premier League club.

The 22-year-old has dropped off the radar with Brighton and Ireland, and admits a loss of desire and hunger allied with unhappiness off the park has halted his development.

Those factors prevented him from capitalising on a brief stint with Middlesbrough earlier this year, but Connolly insists a strong pre-season with Venezia has served a reminder of what he needs to do, adding that he now understands why Stephen Kenny and assistant Keith Andrews were getting on his case last year.

Speaking to Irish Football Fan TV, the Galwegian hinted he was keeping company off the park that was hindering his career and his wellbeing.

“A lot of people know why I haven’t kicked on and I know myself. That’s why this move to Italy was vital, just to get away from the circle I was in back in England,” says Connolly.

“Physically and mentally, I haven’t felt this strong in a long time. I wish this version of myself right now had showed up at Middlesbrough.

“I’ve got a good group of people around me now, a good group of mates. At the minute I’m probably the forgotten man in Irish football and if I kept associating with people I’d been associating with before, I would have completely gone off the scale.

“Now I think I’ve turned that around and hopefully people will be able to see that with performances. The people that are in my life right now, they are only helping. They don’t want anything from me.”

Connolly says a big element of his motivation is breaking back into the Ireland squad and proving that he appreciates the opportunities to pull on the green jersey.

He was first choice under Kenny but hasn’t started since last September’s drab draw with Azerbaijan. Kenny and Andrews showed Connolly a video of his performance afterwards which he says he now associates with his mood at that juncture.

“They were showing me clips from the Azerbaijan game where I wasn’t pressing and then they showed me clips from the U-21 game (with Sweden in 2019) where I wouldn’t stop running. That faded without me realising.

“Everyone can probably tell by my performances at times. And maybe the way I carried myself on the pitch and sometimes off it.

"Now I’m in a better headspace, you look back at games and think, ‘Was I really walking around for that long? Did I really walk around like that?’

“At the time when people were telling me, I didn’t want to listen or hear or see what they were saying to me was right.”


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