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Sunday 8 December 2019

Contrasting fortunes for two of our brightest stars

BLOW: Troy Parrott leaves the pitch after being shown a red card against Italy on Thursday night. Pic: Sportsfile
BLOW: Troy Parrott leaves the pitch after being shown a red card against Italy on Thursday night. Pic: Sportsfile

WHAT a difference a month can make; literally a striking difference if one compares Aaron Connolly and Troy Parrott.

Rewind to last month's international window; despite their friendly win against Bulgaria, much of Mick McCarthy's post-match press conference is peppered with questions about whether or not 17-year-old Troy Parrott should be parachuted into his senior squad.

For much of an uninspiring evening, until Jack Byrne prompted a late spurt of activity, most of the interest in a becalmed crowd had centred around the viral footage of Parrott's outrageous brace for Stephen Kenny's U21s in Sweden.

McCarthy bristled somewhat at all the attention a player who was not in his squad was receiving - at one stage bizarrely suggesting his installation as senior boss had shielded successor Kenny.

McCarthy's mantra was simple; if Parrott was able to break into Spurs' first-team - it would be an added bonus should he score - then, and only then, would the manager contemplate including him in his squad.

ON THE UP: Aaron Connolly during a Republic of Ireland training session in Tblisi. Pic: Sportsfile
ON THE UP: Aaron Connolly during a Republic of Ireland training session in Tblisi. Pic: Sportsfile

Parrott did get his chance but, like his team in a League Cup tie against Colchester, failed to do enough to convince the boss.

Meanwhile, that same week, Terry Connor went to see Aaron Connolly make an unexpected first competitive start for Brighton as they also lost to Aston Villa; however, McCarthy's loyal assistant was much taken with the Galwegian.

Fast forward ten days and Connolly's Brighton entertain Parrott's Spurs; except Parrott is not in the visitors' squad; however, Connolly is handed a Premier League debut by Graham Potter.

Robbie Keane, Ireland's assistant coach, watches on as, twenty years since he scored twice as a teenager in the Premier League, Connolly stuns him and millions of others by replicating the feat.

And so to this week's international window; Connolly is on a flight to Tbilisi on Thursday, leaving behind his former U21 charges; McCarthy has stuck to his promise and drafted him into the seniors.

He will not start but is likely to play.

Parrott, meanwhile, starts against Italy but in an unfamiliar wide left role, as Norwich City's Adam Idah justifies his inclusion as the central striker.

The Dubliner has a mixed evening; two goal-scoring chances but also two yellow cards; the first, justified, a technically poor tackle; the second is questionable but reflects lax judgement in the context of a fussy refereeing performance.

Fair to say Connolly, rather than Parrott, has over-taken a rival who, despite his youth (17) seemed poised to walk a different path this month.

He will miss Ireland's trip to Iceland this Tuesday; after that, how he responds may define his season.

"He's a brilliant, brilliant young man," says Kenny.

"He showed his character before. He scored on his debut here against Armenia, the winner.

"For tactical reasons and fresh reasons, we made changes for that trip to Sweden.

"He's very disappointed to be left out but how does he respond to it? He scored two unbelievable goals out there when we're losing 1-0. That's how you define character.

"People speak about character? What is it like? Well that's the definition of it for me.

"He was very harshly treated against Italy; and he could have scored twice.

"He's devastated but there's nothing you can do. He's more disappointed that he's not able to go to Iceland."

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