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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Nervous times for some of McCarthy's old guard now

Shane Long
Shane Long
James McCarthy

As a player,  Mauricio Pochettino never held back from a tackle when one was needed.

And the current boss of Tottenham didn't shirk in the last 24 hours as he took a rusty old nail to the balloon of hype which had threatened to engulf a 17-year-old Dubliner called Troy Parrott.

"He needs to be relaxed. If we put too much pressure [on him] we're going to push him to make a mistake and that is what we don't want," said Pochettino, doing his best to calm the talk, much of it emanating from people who have never seen Parrott play in the flesh.  

Some keyboard warriors have decided that the classy nature of Parrott's second goal for Ireland's U-21 side in a win over Sweden on Tuesday night means he simply has to be in the Spurs team but Pochettino looks at Parrott and still sees a boy.

And progressing from youthful prodigy to the big stage of the Premier League is a hard road which can harm unfinished talents.

Mick McCarthy this week admitted that he is an admirer of his talent while stressing that Parrott, still unable to vote or buy alcohol, has to prove himself in men's football before he can be considered for a senior role with Ireland.

Nervous

The Ireland manager emerged from the last two international games content with his lot, but he has some big calls to make in the 18 days before he names his squad for the double header against Georgia and Switzerland.

And that will make for some nervous Irish players in England who will spend the next two weeks wondering if their time with Ireland is (for now, at least) up as they've been usurped by younger, fitter players or if they have a role to play.

Keiren Westwood's habit of withdrawing from Ireland squads, only to be fit in time to play for his club days later, could leave the 34-year-old permanently stuck on 21 caps, with younger keeper Mark Travers and Kieran O'Hara now further up the ladder. It's hard for Westwood to win caps when he never turns up.

Despite all they have done in the past, the trio of Robbie Brady, Shane Long and James McCarthy will need to convince McCarthy that they have something to offer him as he plans that trip to Tbilisi and Geneva.

Brady has started just one league game for Burnley since December and has not played for club or country this season, though Sean Dyche confirmed yesterday that Brady should be fit enough to take a place in the squad for their game away to Brighton.

Long is lacking game time with Southampton but is not presently injured. McCarthy decided that the 32-year-old was not at the fitness levels required for the last bout of Ireland duty and Long was left at home, a decision which will not have gone down well in the Long camp, as suggested by the defence of Long from his friend and former team-mate Kevin Doyle on TV this week.

Benefit

Nathan Redmond will not be involved with Southampton this weekend so a door could open for Long, and Saints team-mate, teenage striker Michael Obafemi, could be the one to benefit as he's free from injury at the moment.

As for McCarthy, he is closing in on a most unwelcome anniversary: on October 9th (the day that the Ireland squad fly out to Georgia) it will be three years to the day since he last played for Ireland, away to Moldova.

Crystal Palace spent money on McCarthy only a month ago but they are yet to be convinced of his fitness, as is McCarthy.

Josh Cullen, Jack Byrne and James Collins lack the experience which the likes of Brady and Long can offer, and McCarthy will want experience for what will be a test of nerve as much as skill in Tbilisi.

But unless the trio of Brady, McCarthy and Long force themselves into the Ireland manager's thoughts over the next 18 days, it could be the likes of Cullen and co on duty in Tbilisi. Nervous times for some pretty big names.

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