McCarthy confident teenager Connolly could play part for Republic of Ireland

Mick McCarthy has told teenager Aaron Connolly he would not have called him into the Republic of Ireland squad if he was not confident he could play a part in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

The 19-year-old Brighton striker was added to the mix over the weekend after scoring twice in his first Premier League start for the club in a 3-0 victory over Tottenham on Saturday.

Connolly had already impressed McCarthy on under-21s duty for his country, although he resisted the temptation to draft him into the full squad last month, but he had no qualms over bringing him in for Saturday’s Group D trip to Georgia and the clash with Switzerland which follows it three days later.

Asked if it would take a big leap of faith to use him in either Tbilisi or Geneva, McCarthy said: “I wouldn’t have put him in the squad if I thought that, so no.”

Connolly’s elevation came after McCarthy’s assistant Robbie Keane, who scored 68 international goals for the Republic, watched him help to take Spurs apart.

The manager said: “Robbie sent me a message to say he’d scored two goals and played really well.

“He’s very quick, very direct, he’s happy to take people on, his movement is very good and his hold-up play is very good. He plays with personality and he’s got a bit of aggression in him, which I really like.

“I was delighted when I saw him (for the under-21s) against Armenia, but that’s a completely different thing to him coming into the Premier League.

“Do you know, I’m just delighted that he has done really well. It’s a good option that if I want to play him, I can. He plays with personality and the fact that he comes in here on a high with some momentum after scoring two at the weekend, that’s nice as well.”

Amid a clamour for the likes of Connolly and Tottenham striker Troy Parrott to be included in the senior squad last month, McCarthy voiced the opinion that key qualifiers were maybe not the best opportunity to do that.

However asked what had changed, he replied: “I’ve said all along, if you are playing in the Premier League and scoring goals, then you have a chance.”

Ireland head off for their double-header still sitting at the top of the group two points clear of Denmark and three better off than the Swiss, who have a game in hand.

While McCarthy knows this month’s fixtures – and the Danes’ visit to Dublin in November – represent a tough conclusion to the campaign, he is asking for more of the same from his players.

He said: “They have to understand how well that they have done already. They don’t have to do anything else.

“It’s the toughest end of the competition, I’m fully aware of that, but they have been great so far, so same again for me.”

Meanwhile, McCarthy will give injured duo Shane Duffy and David McGoldrick until the last minute to declare themselves fit despite leaving them out of the 24-man party.

He said: “I’ve just told Shane via a text message, ‘The plane is leaving at 2pm from Dublin Airport to Tbilisi, so we’ll keep a seat with extra leg room as we always do, so don’t be late’.”

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