Saturday 21 September 2019

David Kelly: 'Kenny's Kids the real victors as Byrne cameo offers some food for thought'

Mick McCarthy, who in his first spell so often felt shadowed by the under-age achievements of Brian Kerr, is conscious that a youthful fling is necessary

Troy Parrott, centre, celebrates his equalising goal with his U21 team-mates during the European U21 Championship Group 1 qualifier win over Sweden in Hansa City, Kalmar, Sweden. Photo: Suvad Mrkonjic/Sportsfile
Troy Parrott, centre, celebrates his equalising goal with his U21 team-mates during the European U21 Championship Group 1 qualifier win over Sweden in Hansa City, Kalmar, Sweden. Photo: Suvad Mrkonjic/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Parallel plot lines puncture the still air as a sprinkling of spectators listlessly watch Ireland limber up.

In Sweden, Stephen Kenny's football evolution has been gathering pace, his U-21 slick side recovering from 1-0 down to spank a stunned Swedish team 3-1.

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There's a sense that the people who didn't show up in the Aviva last night, apart from being smart enough not to waste money on a friendly football game, didn't bother because the wrong team was playing.

The U-21s are the sex symbols of Irish football now; Troy Parrott the lodestar of a new generation of irrepressible, bright young things who refuse to be cowed by inhibition.

His second goal was utterly un-Irish; an impish instrument of individual skill that is normally produced by opposition teams once they have temporarily cast aside their sneering condescension of prehistoric Paddy.

The senior side are still struggling to shrug off the shackles from years of neglect. Every four years, a booze-fuelled orgy of national indulgence at a European Championships the reward for spending those previous four years of penance watching painfully arid and ascetic fare.

Mick McCarthy is not here to change the script. Photo: Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy is not here to change the script. Photo: Sportsfile

Mick McCarthy is not here to change that script. If anything, he is here to ensure that next summer, the country loses itself once more in seas of Guinness and fatuous self-regard.

Three games, perhaps also another couple of those tightrope-walking play-offs, are all that is left for McCarthy to negotiate for that dream to become a happy hangover to last a summer.

In Sweden, something much more substantial was at play, that should last for a long time and not just a good time. Last night, the latest episode of the revolution has not been televised, instead it virally swept the country like an intoxicating rumour. They play Italy next and it might make sense to play that one in the Aviva at this rate. Their future is now.

Meanwhile, a memory of the past, Bulgaria, unwittingly complicit in a very different kind of Irish revolution 32 years ago, slip into the old town virtually unnoticed.

This is a game that was more deserving of a home in Tallaght Stadium.

Their most notable player might just as well be called "Someone Ineverheardov".

Ireland, too, are unloved and almost unrecognisable, but sprinkled with debutants and others looking for fringe benefits.

McCarthy, who in his first spell so often felt shadowed by the under-age achievements of Brian Kerr, is conscious that a youthful fling is necessary.

The clamour for 'Kenny's Kids' will grow in volume and last night, McCarthy was eager to see if there was another hungry young breed bristling for attention.

In a team featuring two debutants, only one player had more than 15 caps and seven of the team were in single figures.

A friendly without fire is no breeding ground. With tackling and intensity disallowed, there was no pressure on performance so it all seemed like an exercise in contrivance.

It was a gentle stroll of irrelevance, a polite exchange of passing niceties that remain mostly harmless.

Josh Cullen, of Charlton, stands out from the listless crowd, bringing energy on both sides of the ball, poise with it and passion without.

His is a decent, and more vibrant, impression of Glenn Whelan.

Jack Byrne's arrival injects some life into the crowd and the contest, a diminutive throwback to his equally inner city playmaking predecessor, Wes Hoolahan.

He is now a live option to bring subtlety where there is so little.

Yet few others are willing to take the same bold gamble.

Safety first. It echoes the manager, the safe pair of hands whose short-term existence is predicated upon getting his team to next summer's party.

Things improved after the break with a pleasing late flurry but perhaps the only issue this friendly resolved is that very few of these players will be involved in that quest.

It is almost certain that one, if not more, of 'Kenny's Kids' will.

Irish Independent

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