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Daily Record
Daily Record
Paul Thomson

Former Ayr United striker relishing third spell at East Kilbride Thistle after mental health challenges

Aaron Connolly experienced one of his most enjoyable spells in football the last time he played for East Kilbride Thistle – and he’s hoping his third Showpark stint will be another to savour.

Greenhills-based striker Connolly signed for the Jags last Thursday after a period on trial for Alan Paterson and Russell Craig’s side and he is eager to find his love of the game again after a difficult couple of years off the pitch.

The former St Andrew’s and St Brides’ pupil, who also had a spell with Lowland League side EKFC in 2015/16, has fond memories of his last stint with the Jags, netting key goals as the team won promotion from Central District Second Division in the 2016/17 campaign.

And he hopes to provide a helping hand for the remainder of this season as the Jags try to climb away from the bottom end of West of Scotland Conference C.

He said: “The last time I was here we got promoted and it was a really enjoyable season.

“I played there under Billy Campbell and we managed to win five of our last six games to get promotion.

“It was one of my most enjoyable seasons in football. A lot of my friends were there at the time, I went to school in the town and I’m back staying in East Kilbride now so it’s a big thing for me.

“It was a no-brainer for me when they asked me to come in and, hopefully, I can make a decent impact.”

Connolly brings with him a wealth of experience. He started his career in the senior ranks with Ayr United and went on to have successful spells in the Juniors with Cumnock, Glenafton and Irvine Meadow.

In recent years, his mental health has suffered and he has spoken openly about suicide attempts, which have been well-documented in the news pages of the local and national press.

And he believes a return to his hometown - from Newton Mearns - and his local team is just what he needs after a “tumultuous” couple of years amid the pandemic.

The 30-year-old said: “I’ve not played for a long time and it’s been years since I played anywhere consistently.

“I was at Fauldhouse and then St Roch’s for a bit until the pandemic hit. I only played a handful of times for St Roch’s with the multiple stops and starts.

“And I didn’t go anywhere this season.

“For me, it’s just about enjoying football again.

“We’ve all had a really tumultuous two years with the pandemic and I’ve barely kicked a ball in that time.

“I’ve had some difficulties with my health and things like that. I had a spell in hospital at the end of last year so it’s taken me a bit of time to get back up to fitness.

Aaron Connolly is in a much better place (Jamie Williamson)

“It’s good for me to be back in the area. The opportunity to go and play football again was the big lure for me as well - and to do it at what is a decent level.

“I just want to get myself fit and firing again.”

Follow Lanarkshire Live Sport on Twitter via @LanLiveSport, like us on Facebook or find us on Instagram for the latest sports news, pictures and video.

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