Luca Connell looks like missing out on vital Champions League qualification matches over the next nine days at least.
Neil Lennon’s second summer signing has been named in the Republic of Ireland’s 20-man squad for this summer’s European Championships in Armenia.
The squad lists haven’t been reported by the FAI as of yet. But looking on the official UEFA website, Connell has been listed in the 20-man squad to face Norway in their first game of the tournament.
It hardly comes as a surprise. Connell played such a big part in actually qualifying for the competition earlier in the year. What is a tad off, however, is that he’s also in Celtic’s squad submitted to UEFA to take part against Sarajevo. Whether Lennon was selecting him just in case he didn’t make the Republic squad is plausible, of course.
Champions League qualification matches are colossal
These are huge matches that effectively define the start of our season. But in fairness, would Connell really have played much of a part? Scott Brown and Callum McGregor hold the midfield spots. It’s next to unthinkable that the duo doesn’t start the contest.
Of course, if Lennon planned to use Connell, it’s a spanner in the works. It won’t get any better either, as if Republic make it all the way, he could be in Armenia until July 27th. That would rule him out of the first-leg of the second qualifier against Nomme Kalju or Shkendija respectively.
Any sort of deal to bring him back for the Champions League games wouldn’t be likely. After all, the Republic of Ireland play just 48 hours before our second-leg match against Sarajevo. He’s also set to miss tomorrow night’s first leg, as the Republic squad are to fly out to Armenia from Dublin on July ninth – tomorrow. Connell would, you imagine, be on that flight.
So it’s a bit of a blow in terms of squad depth. Olivier Ntcham, after all, hasn’t played for Celtic once in pre-season. Nir Bitton, however, could still be used as the first reserve in Sarajevo.
It’s going to be a huge month for Connell as he looks to bring home some glory to Ireland. The relatively short nature of the under-19 European Championships means that we shouldn’t be hit too hard by it. The competition starts on July 14th and finishes on the 27th.
Therefore, at the very latest, Connell should be able to feature in the second leg of the second qualifier.