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Saturday 14 December 2019

Parrott can light up squad

Young blood can energise Irish group ahead of unusual New Zealand test

Jack Byrne (right) and Troy Parrott during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack Byrne (right) and Troy Parrott during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy with Enda Stevens during training in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile

With a polite smile, Mick McCarthy batted away a question about whether he would fancy doing a job share like Northern Ireland and Stoke manager Michael O'Neill if the opportunity presented itself.

McCarthy said he will think about his future when the time comes, adding the hope that it's after next summer's Euros if everything goes to plan. If he faces a quicker decision, it will be because Ireland have failed to qualify.

The 60-year-old's situation is different from O'Neill, of course, in the sense that he's got a proven Championship CV which means offers will be forthcoming, whereas the ex-Shamrock Rovers boss was running out of time to get on that ladder.

And he also had eight years credit in the bank with Northern Ireland, whereas the idea of McCarthy splitting duties before the end of the specific job he was appointed to do would be unpalatable, much as the succession plan with Stephen Kenny leaves him in an uncomfortable position.

Fluid

"The job market is that fluid that thinking what might be available to me now might be bonkers, as it will all change," he said, wisely.

His stock market value may well be determined by the outcome of Monday's showdown with Denmark and that's where the focus is this week.

Ironically enough, it means that the friendly with New Zealand might actually prove to be more relevant for Kenny's reign than for McCarthy's, unless something dramatic happens.

Granted, it's possible that Troy Parrott's rate of progression could make him a more serious option for a competitive match later in this club season.

As it stands right now, it would appear that McCarthy is viewing this week as an opportunity to learn more about the teenager rather than putting him on trial for a Danish cameo.

Similarly, Celtic's Lee O'Connor gets the nod because he is suspended for the U-21 trip to Armenia. The right back has yet to play a senior match at club level and therefore won't be in the frame for Denmark.

With Seamus Coleman suspended and Cyrus Christie out of favour, McCarthy will turn to Alan Browne as a back-up at right full if anything goes wrong with Matt Doherty.

Given how much is riding on Monday, unnecessary risks will be avoided against New Zealand.

In many respects, it's a game he could do without but the glass-half-full take is that it offers the prospect to generate momentum and fill the waiting time.

While it might not be a major deal for management, it will be eagerly anticipated by players who will view it as one of the biggest days of their career to date.

The likes of Parrott and O'Connor could have a positive function in terms of how they affect the mood.

"The fact they are in, they will be buzzing," he stressed.

"The older pros are delighted for them and when they see them performing in training, they will also get a buzz.

"They can bring a bit of energy and excitement and a bit of anticipation to it and for their families as they are getting caps on Thursday.

"We still have got this game to be played and to be dealt with. I've never had this situation before.

"You're asking me questions about how I do it and what happens and I don't really know. I've never had this as a player or as a manager with a friendly and then a big game coming up.

"It's kind of strange for me as well and that's why I've got more players in the squad, because Monday is the important game."

McCarthy did give indications about some of the other players that will feature against the All Whites.

Robbie Brady will play in an attempt to put his hand up for the meaningful end of this double-header, but his limited appearances at Burnley have planted a seed of doubt in the manager's head.

"He's tried and trusted as a senior international," said McCarthy, "So from that point of view, then quite clearly it gives him more of an opportunity to be playing in the Denmark game than a youngster that comes in and is making his debut.

"But having five to ten games on the bounce, that's when you're really at it. If I do start him and he plays really well, how long do I play him for?"

Jack Byrne used to kick the ball around the side of the pitch when Brady - who is four years older - was making waves at St Kevin's Boys alongside family and friends of the Shamrock Rovers player.

They will likely share the same stage on Thursday, while Ciaran Clark is also in line for an outing. But the majority who feature know they will be exiting stage left once the full-time whistle blows.

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