'That's why' - Former Brighton striker earns Ireland call-up as Tottenham man misses out

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Ex-Brighton striker Aaron Connolly has received his first Republic of Ireland call-up since October 2021 following the Hull striker’s prolific form at the start of the season.

Connolly, 23, has scored three goals from four substitute appearances in the Sky Bet Championship since joining Liam Rosenior’s side from Brighton on a one-year contract.

He is one of seven players to return to Stephen Kenny’s squad to face France and Netherlands in Euro 2024 qualification next month.

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Ex-Albion and Norwich defender Shane Duffy, Udinese full-back Festy Ebosele, Preston striker Will Keane, Luton forward Chiedozie Ogbene, Southampton left-back Ryan Manning and Stoke full-back Enda Stevens also return having missed June’s fixtures against Greece and Gibraltar.

Aaron Connolly of Hull City has made a promising start to the seasonAaron Connolly of Hull City has made a promising start to the season
Aaron Connolly of Hull City has made a promising start to the season

Ireland play France at the Parc des Princes on Thursday, September 7 and Netherlands in Dublin three days later.

Last September, Connolly was called up for the under-21 squad for their crunch Euro 2023 qualifying play-off against Israel, where they lost on penalties as they failed in their bid to reach the main tournament which took place this summer in Georgia and Romania.

Speaking at a press conference, Kenny said: “It is unusual to pick someone whose not been starting, he’s not been starting for Hull, but everyone knows it hasn’t been a straightforward journey for Aaron.

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“But he showed great humility and great determination to go back to the under-21 team, playing in Israel, and playing in the play-offs.

“He’s got a great manager in Liam Rosenior, who he has a very good relationship with and has been very good for him.

“His two goals against Blackburn were outstanding, really good goals. He hasn’t been starting for Hull so it’s not realistic to start for us, but he’s shown his capacity to come on and get goals in the last couple of weeks. That’s why he’s included.”

Brighton’s 18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson has started the last four internationals, scoring on his senior debut in a friendly 3-2 victory over Latvia and against Gibraltar. However, there is no place for Tottenham striker Troy Parrott, who is on loan at Eredivisie outfit Excelsior.

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Squad: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (Stoke), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Festy Ebosele (Udinese) James McClean (Wrexham), Ryan Manning (Southampton), Enda Stevens (Stoke), Nathan Collins (Brentford), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Shane Duffy (Norwich), Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Brom), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle), Alan Browne (Preston), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Adam Idah (Norwich), Evan Ferguson (Brighton), Aaron Connolly (Hull), Will Keane (Preston), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton).