Bristol Rovers pair James Connolly and Luca Hoole earn international call-ups after stellar seasons

International recognition for two members of Bristol Rovers’ promotion winning team

Bristol Rovers pair James Connolly and Luca Hoole have been included in Wales Under-21’s squad for their upcoming EURO qualifiers.

The Wales Under-21 side, managed by former Swindon Town left-back Paul Bodin, will play friendlies against Gibraltar and the Netherlands at the Parc y Scarlets next month.

Connolly and Hoole were in contention for their Euro 2023 qualifiers in March but discussions had with Joey Barton, it was decided it was best suited to allow the two to focus on their League Two promotion campaign, a similar approach was taken with Elliot Anderson and Scotland.

Centre-back Connolly joined the Gas on loan from Cardiff City in the January transfer window and became a key component of Rovers’ sturdy defence that won promotion to League One.

The 20-year-old, alongside Connor Taylor, the same age as him, made 24 appearances and scored a goal in the 3-1 against Port Vale in April which put them on their way to promotion.

In what was his first loan in professional football, he kept 11 clean sheets, making it almost a shutout in half of his matches, as he slotted in what was a youthful backline.

It is understood as reported by BristolLive that Cardiff have offered him a new deal which is yet to be decided on, whilst they also have the option to extend his deal even if he does not put pen-to-paper himself.

"I still think he’s got a year left at Cardiff,” responded Joey Barton to Geoff Twentyman on BBC Radio Bristol when asked of the defender’s current situation with his contract.

“He was an amazing signing at the time and played well beyond his years."

Connolly could find himself supported by Hoole, who burst on the scene this season in pre-season and made a handful of appearances in the winter but made his mark in January onwards, coinciding with the dramatic upturn in form.

Hoole took up the right-back position whilst Josh Grant was moved to the left and ended up cementing his spot, starting 19 consecutive matches.

The academy graduate made 32 appearances in total in a promotion winning campaign, scoring his first professional goal against Exeter City whilst also getting two assists.

He was rewarded for his form in February and was given a two-year extension, keeping him at the Memorial Stadium until the summer of 2024, which extends his eight-year involvement with the club.

As well as two Bristol Rovers players, there is also an inclusion for Bristol City’s Sam Pearson, who was on loan at Inverness Caledonian Thistle earlier in the season.

Wales Under-21’s play the Netherlands on Saturday, 11 June and Gibraltar on Tuesday, 14 June, which is just a few weeks before pre-season begins again.

Dan Barden (Norwich City), Lewis Webb (Shelbourne, on loan from Swansea City), Nathan Shepperd (Dundalk), Luca Hoole (Bristol Rovers), Owen Beck (Liverpool), Fin Stevens (Brentford), Ryan Astley (Everton), Zac Ashworth (West Bromwich Albion), Terry Taylor (Burton Albion), Oli Hammond (Nottingham Forest), Elliot Thorpe (Luton Town), Tom Sparrow (Stoke City), Eli King (Cardiff City), Ed Turns (Brighton & Hove Albion), James Connolly (Cardiff City), Sam Pearson (Bristol City), Joe Adams (Dundalk), Rhys Hughes (Everton), Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers), Luke Jephcott (Plymouth Argyle), Pat Jones (Huddersfield Town).