Brighton striker Aaron Connolly thought his Ireland senior call-up was a 'wind-up'

Brighton and Hove Albion striker Aaron Connolly will hope to make his debut for Ireland against Georgia in the European Qualifiers
Brighton and Hove Albion striker Aaron Connolly will hope to make his debut for Ireland against Georgia in the European Qualifiers

Aaron Connolly's progression to the Republic of Ireland senior squad has been so rapid - it caught even him by surprise.

Connolly, 19, touched down in Tbilisi this week for Ireland's European qualifier against Georgia, just days after his two-goals helped Brighton to a 3-0 victory against Tottenham in the Premier League.

That match was Connolly’s fifth Premier League appearance this season but his first top flight start. The call-up from Ireland manager Mick McCarthy came shortly after the Spurs win and was such a shock, he thought it was a prank.

"I’d literally just dropped my dad to Gatwick," said Connolly, whose father flew in from Ireland in the hope he would start against Spurs at the Amex Stadium last Saturday. "I got to my girlfriend’s house and one of the boys from Brighton texted me saying the gaffer is looking for my number.

"I thought it was a wind up but then after a few minutes I realised it definitely was the gaffer calling. I rang my parents straight away. My dad was still at the airport and they were both shocked. I’d been named in the provisional squad but they didn’t expect me to be called in. They were very proud and so was my girlfriend and her family."

Connolly added: “It’s the proudest thing anyone can ask for as a 19-year-old Irish kid that wants to play for his country. It was just mad when I got the call, I was speechless for a couple of minutes."

McCarthy, who said earlier this week he would have been "potty not to select Connolly", refused to rule out playing the Galway born striker against Georgia tomorrow. The Albion teenager has previously played on the left in an attacking three for Ireland under-21s but so far at Brighton he has played more of a central striker for Graham Potter's team.

“I don't mind wherever I play,” Connolly told FAI TV. “I'm more comfortable as a nine but I'll play wherever if it gets me into the starting XI.”