Aaron Connolly as a part of an underage Mervue United side. Credit: Mervue United FC
Eleven years of age, a cheeky smile, and a hardworking attitude. When Aaron Connolly joined Mervue United as a child, the whole club backed him for big things.
Almost six years have passed since the Oranmore man last stepped foot on Fahy’s Field as a part of Mervue United. Now, the young forward has been loaned to Championship club Middlesbrough from Brighton and Hove Albion to get more regular football than what he was seeing for the Seagulls. For many Irish fans, it is the perfect opportunity for Aaron to show Graham Potter that he is ready to really push for first team football back in Brighton next season, or who knows, another club may come in for a permanent move.
The drive and determination to improve has never been something the young centre forward has lacked, according to old manager at Mervue United, Oliver “Ollie” Neary. Speaking about what Aaron showed while part of the Mervue United team, particularly with the U-17 League of Ireland side, the former player-turned-coach explained how there were certain traits that were very uncommon for someone so young.
“He was a standout player, a very tenacious young lad. Nearly every game, he was scoring nearly three or four goals a game. For the U-17 team, we brought him into the squad at 15 and he excelled. In 14 games, Aaron would have played in eight of those games, and scored between 12 and 14 goals. A player who really stood out from the rest.”
Neary believed that, while the player had the correct mindset to make it to the top, structure is always needed to get on the right path to where you want to be, in any walk of life. For this young man, Mervue United gave him the structure to really go for his dreams, through coaches who nurtured his talents and a club that does the best for its players.
“The state-of-the-art facilities in Mervue would have been a huge temptation for (Aaron) to come into the club, but also, we are common to progress deep into national competitions so the further you play in these competitions, the more exposure you will get to other clubs. We also have former professionals with League of Ireland experience heavily involved in the club, so the ability to pick up knowledge from players of this calibre is also hugely enticing.”
Connolly is the latest Galwegian to make it across the pond, with Ryan Manning and Greg Cunningham also representing the Tribesmen in the Championship with Swansea and Preston North End respectively. Speaking on Aaron’s recent move to Middlesborough, Neary is confident that it is the perfect opportunity to re-capture the form he had when he won the PL2 Player of the Year.
“I like the move. Now, they have also loaned in that youngster from Arsenal, but yeah, I think it was a good move for the lad. He isn’t that far removed from being one of the best players in the U-23 PL, so more game time in a club like ‘Boro could really do him wonders.”
As this young man continues his endeavour through English football, one can only hope that the qualities he developed and improved during his times in Mervue United can be on full show again for his stint in the Championship. A highly talented player who represents the hard work invested into players by Mervue United.