Parrott has Irish smiling with crucial early strike
Ireland U-17 1 Denmark U-17 0
Six months on from their devastating World Cup defeat to Denmark, there was a measure of revenge for an Ireland team yesterday coupled with a slight glimpse of a brighter future.
It wouldn't have taken long for Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane sitting in the tight stand at St George's Park to realise that the Danish U-17s don't have any potential in Christian Eriksen's calibre but they may have picked within the Irish ranks a prospect or two.
Chief amongst them was match-winner Troy Parrott, the 16-year-old Belvedere gem shortly to become a full-time professional at Tottenham Hotspur.
In a game low on quality, Parrott displayed enough class belying the fact he's the youngest outfield member of Ireland's squad at the European Championships this year being held in England.
At a time when scoring goals at these major tournaments is proving problematic - Ireland drew blanks in seven of their previous eight matches - his opportunistic goal after just five minutes said much of the natural side of his game.
Ireland moved the ball briskly from right-back Oisin McEntee across midfield towards Parrott stationed on the left flank. Little seemed to be on when the attacker advanced at pace but he let fly on the run with a shot which bounced up off the surface to wrong-foot the Danish goalkeeper.
Second-choice stopper Daniel Andersen had benefited from the horror show endured by Wolves goalkeeper Andreas Sondergaard in the 3-2 defeat to Bosnia & Herzegovina yet his replacement wasn't much better.
"I thought I'd try have a shot early on to test the goalkeeper and it worked out," explained Parrott afterwards.
"There's no better feeling than scoring for your country, especially at a level like this in the European finals. It was brilliant to hear that the senior management team were watching us.
"We knew Denmark were a good side but the early goal helped and our defensive work was excellent. Later on, I should have stuck the other chance away."
It was refreshing to hear the teen with talent to burn noting his one blip of the afternoon.
Denmark were beginning to apply pressure, primarily by pumping long balls into the box, when Adam Idah crafted a cross from the right aimed for Parrott.
The Dubliner looked to have done the difficult part by getting the pass under control but his rising shot from 10 yards wasted the opportunity.
"Troy scored the winner but he'll admit himself that he should put that chance away in the second half," asserted O'Brien, mindful of balancing praise with criticism.
"Another goal at that stage of the game would have made things a bit easier for us.
"We have a lot of hope for Troy. Like all the players in the squad, he's got potential. But he'll start full-time football with Tottenham Hotspur later in the summer and we'll see how he gets on."
O'Neill and Keane paid a visit to the team's dressing-room at full-time to offer their views to the next generation. O'Brien was content to allow the pair provide input, insisting their interest acts as a motivating factor for his group.
"Martin and Seamus McDonagh were at the game on Saturday and Roy joined them for the Denmark match," said the Corkman.
"That's brilliant for the players because it just shows that that's the final pathway where you want the players to go, that's their final step.
"These players have done well this season but there is a long way to go in terms of their development."
In the short-term, sealing their place in Monday's quarter-finals in the priority.
That objective was made more negotiable by Belgium's 4-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina in yesterday's other game in the pool.
Although they won't countenance any thoughts other than approaching the game with the intention of beating the Balkan nation, a draw would confirm the requisite top-two finish.
Whatever unfolds on Friday, this week's weather isn't the only thing helping O'Neill and Keane brighten up following a long winter of discontent.
Ireland - J Corcoran (Cherry Orchard); O McEntee (Newcastle Utd), N Collins (Stoke City), K Ledwidge (Southampton), L Connell (Bolton Wds); J Knight (Derby County), A O'Reilly (Preston NE); T Wright (Aston Villa), S Brennan (Southampton), T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur); A Idah (Norwich City). Subs: B Coffey (Celtic) for Brennan (h-t), C Thompson (Wolves) for Wright (57), J McEneff (Arsenal) for O'Reilly (66).
Denmark - Andersen; M Lassen (O Rimmen 53), M Jensen, T Anker, Rafn-Petersen (A Andersen 66); J Christensen, M Frendrup; G Isaksen, J Pedersen, Rose-Villadsen; M Brajanec (M Sorensen 53).
Ref - Z Proske (Czech Rep)