REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has revealed that Aaron Connolly was playing through the pain barrier during his time on loan at Middlesbrough and that the player ‘doesn’t feel right within himself’.

The 22-year-old made 21 appearances during the second half of the season after completing a loan move from Brighton and Hove Albion in January but failed to live up to expectation as he scored just two goals during his time on Teesside.

Boro failed to cut the mustard in the attacking areas throughout the season with midfielder Matt Crooks ending up as the club’s top scorer for the season with 11 goals.

Connolly returns to Brighton facing an uphill task to force his way into contention with the Premier League side and his loan spell with Boro might not look back favourably on his case. Towards the end of his loan spell on Teesside, he was used as more of a substitute by manager Chris Wilder.

After he was omitted from the Ireland squad once again, the national team’s manager explained that his fitness was the reason why he was not in the squad.

“He’s not in the Ireland squad and he doesn’t feel right within himself” said Kenny in his pre Nations League press conference.

“He feels the heel that he has been playing with. He was getting injections towards the end of the season to play. It’s caused him a lot of discomfort so he wasn’t available for selection.”

Ireland play four matches in ten days in during in the Nations League with two games to come against Ukraine along with ties against Armenia and Scotland.

While Connolly walks away from Boro in slightly less favourable light than when he left, the out-of-sorts striker will be looking for the next experience to get his promising career back on track which is something his national teams manager agrees with.

Kenny also explained about why his time at Boro should not cloud people’s judgement of the player as he continued: “When you talk to some teams in England when you are going around the clubs, a lot of the coaches often say ‘disregard a players first loan’. That’s a saying that they have.

“I said ‘how do you mean?’ They say a player’s first loans are not always successful.

“He played a lot of games for Middlesbrough and that was good experience for him. I’m sure if he has another loan move then he will be better for it.”

Asked whether expects Connolly to head out on loan for next season, Kenny responded: “I’ve no knowledge of that but you would suspect that would be the case.”

Boro boss Wilder has been on record recently to admit that the loan players spells have perhaps not worked out as he looks to make swift but sweeping changes at the club for next season.

New strikers will be high on the priority list following the departures of Connolly, Folarin Balogun and Andraz Sporar. Uche Ikpeazu and Chuba Akpom are due to return from their respective loan spells but both are expected to leave the club in the summer.