Back in October 2020, The Galway Daily website published an article about three Galway soccer players to keep an eye on in the English Championship during the 2020/2021 season. There was no mention of the English Premier League, or Aaron Connolly, the Republic of Ireland player who plays for Brighton Hove Albion, so we are putting that right now.
The now 21-year-old was born in Oranmore, Galway, in the year 2000. His first taste of football was when at the age of five he played for Maree Oranmore FC in 2005. When he was 11, he joined the youth team of Mervue United. During the summer of 2016, he was spotted by Brighton and Hove Albion and offered a trial. It resulted in him being given a two-year scholarship with their U18s.
It wasn’t long before he was fast-tracked through to the U23s. His first appearance was as a substitute in the EFL cup game against Barnet in August 2017. They won 1-0. In January 2019, Connolly was offered a three-and-a-half-year contract that he duly signed and is now a regular first-team player.
Albion had a shaky start to the season and, until recently, languished around the bottom three in the Premier League table. But their fortunes began to change earlier this year when they beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0, rapidly followed by beating Liverpool at Anfield 1-0 at the beginning of February.
Brighton and Hove nearly made it through the quarter-finals of the 2020/2021 FA Cup. Had they done so, it would certainly have registered as a big upset given that they had to play Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, Sadly they lost 1-0. But at least they can now concentrate on making sure they stay in the EPL, and that is where young Connolly can hopefully show his true worth.
Connolly had a dream debut in his first Premier League in October 2019. He scored twice against Tottenham at the Amex Stadium. His first goal came in the 30th minute, and his second in the 65th minute. He put on an excellent display, torturing Tottenham’s backline throughout the match and earning himself the man of the match award.
On the same day that he scored twice against Tottenham, he also received his first call- up to the Republic of Ireland senior side for the qualifying matches for Euro 2020. He got his first cap on the 12thof October 2019, coming on as a substitute in the 79th minute for James Collins.
He would have received more international caps, but injuries have dogged him and prevented him from joining the Republic of Ireland squad on two occasions. They have also meant that he hasn’t been available for Brighton – his latest injury being to a hamstring.
So far this season, and because of those injuries, Connolly has only scored twice but manager Graham Potter nonetheless remains convinced of the youngster’s potential.
He brought him on as a substitute in the recent games against Spurs and Liverpool and gave him a start against Burnley. If he can remain injury-free, he is sure to start scoring goals again.
Hopefully, he can begin to realise his potential to become one of Galway’s best-ever footballing talents. He can be instrumental in helping Brighton and Hove Albion to cement their place in next season’s Premiership, and when called-up, add firepower to the ROI senior men’s team.