Celtic pair Jonathan Afolabi and Luca Connell involved in last-minute Ireland under-21 win

By David Walton

June 2, 2021

Celtic duo Jonathan Afolabi and Luca Connell were both involved for the Republic of Ireland under-21 group in this afternoon’s win against Australia.

The rarely seen Hoops duo have just returned to the club from respective loan spells. Afolabi is back from a disappointing period with Dundee in the Championship. Connell, meanwhile, is in good form after securing the League Two title with Queen’s Park.

Both men are now part of Ireland under-21’s friendly camp in Marbella, Spain. And as boss Jim Crawford looks to integrate a new group of players into his ranks, they’re using these games as a chance to get used to each other.

It began with a 2-0 loss against Switzerland on Sunday. However, today, the Irish showed some more grit as they secured a 2-1 win against Australia.

Afolabi was involved in what was a quiet first half before being hooked at the break. Connell, meanwhile, managed to bag 87 minutes before he came off late on. The star of the show, however, would be Ross Tierney.

His late header in the last minute of the 90 secured Ireland’s first win of the camp. Afolabi and Connell will likely be involved again on Saturday, June 5th against Denmark in their final friendly match.

Luca Connell and Jonathan Afolabi could do with making their mark with Ireland under-21 side

It’s an early chance for the Celtic youngsters to get themselves noticed ahead of the summer window. Given the landscape of Celtic at the moment, loan moves for both men could be exactly what’s need to reinvigorate their careers again.

Looking at both men’s individual situation doesn’t make for great viewing. Afolabi in particular simply hasn’t been able to progress as much as we would’ve liked over the last two years. He was sent on loan to Dundee this season to prove his worth, but ended the season with only four goals and not even making their matchday squads [Transfermarkt].

Even considering the fact we could be short on strikers this summer, Afolabi looks too far from the being of the quality we require. Another spell elsewhere looks like the most logical option moving forward, but he’ll need to make it work this time. Two years on from his signing, we’ve yet to see what all the fuss is about.

Jonathan Afolabi is one of Celtic’s long-term projects / (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Connell is in a slightly different boat given many have been calling for him to get a shot at Parkhead. In addition to that, he’s shone when given the chance to leave the club on loan. Albeit it was two divisions lower than Afolabi was operating in this season.

The next step for him should be a Scottish Premiership side. It’s there the likes of Ryan Christie and Kristoffer Ajer managed to make their marks. It showed Celtic exactly what they’re capable of against our bread-and-butter opposition on a weekly basis.

Connell has still to prove he can do similar. Hopefully, both he and Afolabi can use the final game against Denmark as a chance to boost their stock a touch further.

In other news, Celtic should make sure their gloating rivals are only a one-season wonder – there’s plenty of questions to ask of them.