Brighton star set to be handed first international start

Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton forward Aaron Connolly could make his first international start for the Republic of Ireland against Switzerland in Geneva on Tuesday.

It has been a meteoric rise for Brighton forward Connolly, who only started training with the Seagulls first-team during the summer, but he has been quickly able to establish himself as an important member of Graham Potter’s squad.

Indeed, the 19-year-old has featured five times in the Premier League already this season and he marked his first top-flight start with a brace in Brighton’s impressive 3-0 victory over Tottenham before the international break.

Connolly’s performance against Spurs was enough to earn him a late call-up into Mick McCarthy’s Ireland squad and he made his international debut for the Boys in Green during Saturday’s goalless draw with Georgia in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The former Luton loanee impressed during his brief cameo appearance in Tbilisi, with the result also boosting Ireland’s hopes of making it through to next summer’s European Championships.

Ireland could even secure qualification with a victory in Switzerland on Tuesday night, but despite the magnitude of that match, McCarthy says he would have no problem in starting Connolly, despite his relative lack of experience.

Asked at his pre-match press conference at the Stade de Geneva if it would be a gamble Connolly, McCarthy replied: “Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

“Asking me would I risk him, there’s some suggestion that there is. I don’t think there is.

“He’s now made his debut. He had a cameo and did well in it and I think he will be feeling comfortable about himself, so no, I don’t think it would be a risk at all to start him.”

Brighton will certainly be hoping Connolly can impress if he is given a chance to start for Ireland, but they will also be hoping he emerges unscathed, as the Seagulls face a difficult looking away clash with Aston Villa when the Premier League action takes centre stage once again on Saturday.

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