Republic of Ireland striker Aaron Connolly says he will be forever grateful to Mick McCarthy for giving him his senior international debut, but he’s now looking forward to linking up again with Stephen Kenny.
The Galway native was almost ever-present for Kenny’s Irish U21 side, making 11 appearances, before a fine display in Brighton’s win over Tottenham saw McCarthy hand him his senior debut against Georgia last October.
The 20-year-old, who joined Brighton & Hove Albion from Galway city side Mervue United in 2016, said that while he’s sad to see McCarthy depart, he’s thrilled for Kenny and his assistant Keith Andrews, having worked well with them in the past.
“It is exciting. I can’t say a bad word about Mick. He gave me my international debut. I’ll be grateful to him forever.
“It’s good that Stephen is coming in as well, he has looked after me since I have come into the U21 set-up with Keith Andrews who has just got the assistant manager job. It’s brilliant. I’m happy for Stephen and Keith.
“I think everyone is gutted to see Mick go, he has done a good job and personally I am as well. Stephen Kenny coming in, he is a really, really good manager.
“We can look forward to good days with the Ireland senior team, definitely.”
Connolly is currently recuperating from surgery on a ligament problem and coping with the Covid-19 shutdown the same as every other sports person.
But he’s looking forward to getting back on the field after making his Premier League debut off the bench against Man City last August before crowning his first start with two goals in that 3-0 win over Spurs in October.
“I’m injured at the minute so it’s not the worst time to be injured. It’s tough for everybody, just sitting indoors, just hoping that it goes by quickly.
“Everyone just has to try and get through it, just stay in, and get through it and let it pass and we can all get back to normal,” Connolly told Galway Bay FM.
“I had surgery. I got it on the training ground. I did a couple of ligaments, but it wasn’t really that serious, but then I had to have it a few days after that. It’s three weeks now since the surgery.
“I was a week just lying in bed trying to let it heal and I have been a week in a recovery boot to try and get the strength back in my leg.
“I’ll be getting the boot off soon and back walking normally and let’s see how it goes from there.”
Meanwhile, former Ireland manager Brian Kerr says Kenny will face increased scrutiny as a home-based manager.
Reflecting on his own time at the helm, Kerr told The42: “I went from someone who was fairly recognisable to maybe around 30% of the people around the place to being recognised by around 80% of people.”.
“Places I would have gone for a newspaper or a bottle of milk and an ice-cream for years without being noticed, suddenly people would be beeping their horn at me, waving out the window or shouting across the street.
“It certainly underlined the idea you were in a very important job, if you didn’t already know it.
“In my case, a lot of it was enjoyable.”
However, he added: “Almost 100% of people were nice to me and said encouraging things, and that was sometimes overwhelming.”