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Friday 20 September 2019

Kenny's kids are flying

Parrott and Connolly impress in front senior boss McCarthy

EURO STARS: Troy Parrott is congratulated by his Ireland U21 teammates Conor Masterson and Dara O’Shea after scoring in the European U21 Championship qualifying win over Armenia. Pic: Sportsfile
EURO STARS: Troy Parrott is congratulated by his Ireland U21 teammates Conor Masterson and Dara O’Shea after scoring in the European U21 Championship qualifying win over Armenia. Pic: Sportsfile

A boy called Parrott scored the goal but Ireland's U21 side look as if theyall have wings to take them a long way in the game.

Green shoots were on view in every area of the pitch as Stephen Kenny's Ireland side managed to live up to the hype and deliver a winning performance in their Euro qualifier at home to Armenia which will have won over everyone who witnessed it, Troy Parrott with the only goal of the game.

Mick McCarthy and his senior team staff were among the 3,658 crowd at Tallaght Stadium where Ireland's U21s made it two wins from two games in their qualifying group for Euro 2021.

The result, and their start to Group 1 in the qualifiers, are impressive but the attacking display by Kenny's side will give hope to all who have laboured, and suffered, in the world of Irish football over the last year, though it would have been ever better if the near-constant Irish pressure had delivered more than one goal, a disappointment that the goal tally could not be added to.

Under-21 football is of course different to the white-hot heat of battle in a qualifier for the World Cup and Irish football has seen plenty of prodigious talent fail to build on early promise, but the signs from what could be Ireland's best-ever side at U21 level are very, very promising and the side head to Sweden for their next qualifier on Tuesday with real hopes of qualifying for the first time, though senior call-ups for players like Parrott and Connolly could derail that somewhat.

Parrott, making a rare appearance in his native Dublin, marked his U21 debut with a goal but the night was not just about the Spurs prodigy but those around him.

Galway lad Aaron Connolly, who made his Premier League debut for Brighton only a week earlier, was breathtaking, his skill and pace as a wide player something that's not been seen in the senior Ireland XI for some time, while captain Jayson Molumby and Gavin Kilkenny also looked the part and looked as if they can aspire to bigger things.

The defence were rarely tested by a technically-gifted but unconvincing Armenia side but there was a nice shape to the back four which had Lee O'Connor and Darragh Leahy at full back and the composed Dara O'Shea and Conor Masterson in the middle.

At one stage early in the second half Masterson got himself in a spot of bother by giving away possession but sidekick O'Shea nipped in to clear the danger, a nice partnership between the two Dubliners.

Ireland, who began the campaign with a 3-0 win at home to Luxembourg, started well in Tallaght, early chances for Adam Idah and Molumby, with Irish keeper Caoimhín Kelleher untroubled, bar a speculative shot from Vahan Bichakhchyan on 17 minutes.

Ireland, and their supporters, had to be patient but there was confidence the goal would come, and when it did arrive, on 31 minutes, it was a team effort. Keeper Kelleher fed the ball out to left back Leahy, he passed to Connolly who took the ball on the halfway line, burst forward with pace, beat two men and crossed for Parrott who had a simple finish.

Connolly could have made it 2-0 on 36 minutes after a poor clearance from keeper Sevak Aslanyan came his way but Connolly's shot was saved.

The only down side for the home supporters was that Kenny's outfit were unable to add to the single goal scored by Parrott, who was replaced for the final ten minutes by fellow Dubliner Jonathan Afolabi.

Connolly had plenty of the ball but his efforts were either off-target or saved by the keeper.

Ireland had their best chance to add to their tally on 54 minutes, when a horrendous pass by Armenian defender Hovhannes Nazaryan gifted the ball to Idah, he slid a pass in to Parrott but his shot came off the post and while Idah pounced on the rebound, his shot was over the bar.

Parrott tried his luck with a free kick on 66 minutes but was not on target while sub Afolabi was also denied and 1-0 had to do.

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