Thursday 19 September 2019

McCarthy cautious but time is right to show Parrott the Ireland ropes

Troy Parrott. Photo: Sportsfile
Troy Parrott. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The provisional call for Troy Parrott is still one hurdle short of a ticket to the Ireland senior squad.

And the injury he sustained after scoring two goals for the Spurs U-23 side last night took some of the gloss off a day that he described as a "dream come true".

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But if he can overcome that setback promptly, the time is right for Mick McCarthy to give the 17-year-old the opportunity to sample the environment that should play a big part in his football future.

There's a certain discomfort in piling pressure on one so young. But it's clear that Parrott is no ordinary teenager. As a part of Spurs' plans, he is operating at a level above the bulk of the Irish squad.

The fact he didn't make the bench for last weekend's win over Aston Villa was almost treated as disappointing in some quarters, which is fairly ludicrous given he's already way ahead of schedule.

By reaching the threshold of involvement with a Premier League big gun, he's in the top per cent of footballers worldwide in his age bracket.

McCarthy was suitably cautious in his comments yesterday, asserting that Parrott would need to play competitively for Mauricio Pochettino between now and September to survive the squad cull - from 40 to 23 - ahead of the September 5 date with Switzerland.

Otherwise, he will drop to Stephen Kenny's U-21 panel for their Euro qualifier with Armenia 24 hours later.

It would appear Stoke's youngest ever captain Nathan Collins and Southampton's Michael Obafemi are headed that way too even though they are involved with their respective first teams.

Parrott might just be closer because of the top-six profile of his employer.

McCarthy admitted that his anointed successor Kenny might just be taking the reins at the right time.

"He has got that wonderful job of creating his own players for his senior squad," he said.

"He is doing it for after the Euros and he is going to know them far better than I do.

"I have got four (qualifying) games and it is unlikely that those players will play. Troy Parrott is different if he gets in the first team."

The experienced Yorkshireman will know the dangers of feeding the hype machine. There is a duty of care for all international bosses when it comes to dealing with a prodigious talent. Burnout is a fear.

Ireland's record goalscorer and assistant coach Robbie Keane can relate to the attention that Parrott is dealing with, although the climate is different now compared to when the Tallaght starlet cartwheeled into the nation's consciousness.

Brian Kerr's kids really burst onto the scene in the late nineties when they started playing first-team matches and even then they had to do remarkable things to truly grab a comparable level of attention.

Keane's debut brace with Wolves in August 1997 was a source of excitement. But go back to the news pages from that time and you'll find it was just the accompanying story to other Irish tales of that era.

He was turning heads in the equivalent of the Championship while his namesake Roy was a driving force with one of Europe's top clubs along with the criminally under-rated Denis Irwin.

More pertinently, there was strength in depth in terms of emerging options. Keane wasn't flying solo. There was Damien Duff and Richard Dunne and Andy Reid to name just three, so the burden was shared.

As the presence at the top table has dwindled, the expectation on the next big thing that emerges has grown in tandem.

Parrott was dining at the top table in pre-season, sharing a pitch with the likes of Gianluigi Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo. In that context, an invite to join the Irish dressing-room is unlikely to faze him.

Screaming for his inclusion against the Swiss would be unreasonable and McCarthy pretty much made it clear in Galway yesterday that the Aviva affair will be for the tried and trusted.

Match fitness of his leading lights is the primary concern. He has welcomed Glenn Whelan's move to Hearts and needs to see James McCarthy get minutes for Crystal Palace. Jeff Hendrick (out of favour) and Robbie Brady (injured) are a source of concern at Burnley.

But - fitness permitting - there is still an argument to draft in Parrott, perhaps with a view to a debut in the friendly with Bulgaria on September 10.

Ireland are aiming to have a ticket to the finals booked by November but, failing that, the fate will hinge on play-offs next March. At his current rate of his progress, it's entirely conceivable that Parrott will be in the picture at that point.

The start of term in September is the ideal window to get the introductions out of the way.

Irish Independent

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