Luca Connell: call-up for Ireland camp ‘crazy’ and ‘surreal’

‘It’s one of those ones, I was confused and it didn’t really sink in until I was on the plane’

18-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder Luca Connell. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

18-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder Luca Connell. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Luca Connell could not quite believe he had been called up to the senior Republic of Ireland squad until he was sitting on the plane to Portugal.

The 18-year-old Bolton midfielder was drafted into the Republic’s week-long training camp in Quinta do Lago at the last minute when his father Andrew received a call from manager Mick McCarthy at the weekend.

Liverpool-born Connell said: “It was only Sunday night the gaffer rang my dad and said he’d be interested, had heard a lot about me, hadn’t seen me live yet, but he’s looking forward to seeing me, so I can’t wait to get on the pitch.

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. It’s one of those ones, I was confused and it didn’t really sink in until I was on the plane that I was actually coming over to meet the first-team squad.”

Connell, who has played at age group level for Ireland, but is also qualified to represent the country of his birth — there has been speculation that he is being monitored by the England set-up — admitted it was “surreal” to walk into the team hotel to meet McCarthy, assistants Terry Connor and Robbie Keane and the rest of the players.

However, there was one man whose acquaintance he was particularly keen to make.

He said: “It’s crazy, it’s surreal to be honest, especially Séamus Coleman. Being from Liverpool and supporting Everton and supporting him through everything, it’s brilliant for me.

“I spoke to Séamus last night, he welcomed me in. Being the skipper, that’s part of his job as well, isn’t it? But he’s a lovely, lovely fella. I can’t thank him enough for welcoming me in.”

Connell is scheduled to be with the squad only for the week in Portugal — they face Denmark and Gibraltar in Euro 2020 qualifiers early next month — although McCarthy threw him down a challenge as he prepared to start work.

The manager said: “He knows he’s coming in for the week in Portugal — unless he rips it up, of course and he’s top man every day, who knows?”

Asked if he intended to rip it up, the midfielder replied with a smile: “I’m going to try my best.”

The midfielder’s elevation comes at the end of a breakthrough season at Bolton during which he made 15 senior appearances in difficult circumstances with the club battling, an ultimately failing, to secure Sky Bet Championship survival amid upheaval off the pitch.

He said: “It’s been a tough season for the club, the players, the staff, the fans, tough all around. But it’s been a good season for me personally. I’ve experience in the Championship and I’m grateful to the gaffer for giving me the chance.”

Connell is out of contract at Bolton this summer and has been linked with a series of Premier League clubs, Tottenham, Southampton, Wolves, Burnley and Brighton among them, in recent weeks.

However, he is setting that all to one side as he attempts to impress on the international fold over the next few days.

Asked about his future, he said: “I don’t know, I’m leaving that down to my agent. Hopefully he’s sorting that out while I’m away, seeing what’s about and what he thinks is best for me.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.