Monday 25 March 2019

Kenny sticks to principles as Parrott makes cut in first squad

Ireland U-21 manager Stephen Kenny is pictured at Abbotstown after announcing his first squad yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ireland U-21 manager Stephen Kenny is pictured at Abbotstown after announcing his first squad yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

John Fallon

There was a point yesterday during his first squad announcement as an international manager when Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny was asked whether he'd sought out Mauricio Pochettino for an opinion on Troy Parrott.

With the Argentinian central to facilitating the ascent of a 17-year-old, upon whose shoulders the future of Irish football seems to lean, the Tottenham Hotspur manager would seem an ideal candidate to provide an insight.

Despite getting to view him for limited periods in the flesh, Kenny realises the strength that Parrott can supply to his cause, both in the short and long term. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Despite getting to view him for limited periods in the flesh, Kenny realises the strength that Parrott can supply to his cause, both in the short and long term. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Still, Kenny wasn't playing the fame game. "No, I didn't need to do that," he retorted without hesitation. "Not saying that I won't in the future but you don't need to be the smartest man in the room to know Troy is well capable of stepping up to this U-21 level."

Kenny's sphere of management may have altered but his single-mindedness hasn't. Despite getting to view him for limited periods in the flesh, Kenny realises the strength that Parrott can supply to his cause, both in the short and long term.

The wonderkid from north inner-city Dublin will firstly have to shake off a toe injury to grasp his first audition before the future senior manager when the U-21s face Luxembourg in their opening Euro 2021 qualifier on Sunday week. As it stands, he is due to report into Dunboyne Hotel on Monday but his club will be loath to risk their rising star.

Based on Kenny's recent revelation that he'd only pounce for talent from younger age-groups if he intends using them, it is safe to presume Parrott is pencilled in for involvement at Tallaght Stadium in 11 days' time.

The same rationale applies for Norwich City striker Adam Idah, Manchester United all-rounder Lee O'Connor and West Ham first-teamer Conor Coventry. Their unavailability completes a quadruple whammy of absentees for Tom Mohan when he attempts to navigate a tricky U-19 elite stage group in Russia next week. "Ultimately, I have to make my own decisions," admitted Kenny about conundrums relating to FAI players in demand by more than one manager.

Equally, yet to a lesser extent, Kenny is already lamenting the loss of players upwards in the chain. A meteoric elevation for Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers into Mick McCarthy's senior squad meant a similar rise for Gavin Bazunu of Manchester City into the vacancy.

There were eight other players still operating in the League of Ireland glad to be recognised by a manager renowned for his knowledge and success on the domestic front. Of them, Waterford's Zach Elbouzedi was spoken of in glowing terms as a viable option for a wing berth while the left-back spot seems to lie between Darragh Leahy and Trevor Clarke.

Kenny's penchant for promoting rookies and shopping local left room for just two UK-born cadets, a stark contrast to the trend under his predecessor Noel King. The new man wasn't buying a conspiracy about a policy shift arising from the debacle over Declan Rice.

"I have no preconceived ideas so that's not the case," he said. "If any person emigrates, then has children or grandchildren, it is only right that they have the ability to play for Ireland."

Clear and decisive discourse remains Kenny's calling card.

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