herald

Monday 16 September 2019

Time is now right to draft in Parrott

Dub teen deserves his chance but injury takes gloss off senior call-up

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at the official opening of an all-weather pitch at Salthill Devon FC following his squad announcement
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at the official opening of an all-weather pitch at Salthill Devon FC following his squad announcement

The provisional call for Troy Parrott is still one hurdle short of a ticket to the Ireland senior squad.

And the injury he sustained after scoring two goals for the Spurs U23 side against Man City last night took some of the gloss off a day that he described as a 'dream come true.'

But if he can overcome that setback promptly, the time is right for Mick McCarthy to give the 17-year-old the opportunity to sample the environment that should play a big part in his football future.

There's a certain discomfort in piling pressure on one so young. But it's clear that Parrott is no ordinary teenager. As a part of Spurs' plans, he is operating at a level above the bulk of the Irish squad.

By reaching the threshold of involvement with a Premier League big gun, the Dubliner is in the top percent of footballers worldwide in his age bracket.

McCarthy was suitably cautious in his comments yesterday, asserting that Parrott would need to play competitively for Mauricio Pochettino between now and September to survive the squad cull from 40 to 23 ahead of the September 5 date with Switzerland.

Headed

Otherwise, he will drop to Stephen Kenny's U21 panel for their Euro qualifier with Armenia 24 hours later. It would appear Stoke's youngest ever captain Nathan Collins and Southampton's Michael Obafemi are headed that way too even though they are involved with their respective first teams.

Parrott might just be closer because of the top six profile of his employer.

McCarthy admitted that his anointed successor Kenny might just be taking the reins at the right time.

"He is doing it after the Euros and he is going to know them far better than I do," he said.

"I have got four (qualifying) games and it is unlikely that those players will play. Troy Parrott is different if he gets in the first team."

The experienced Yorkshireman will know the dangers of feeding the hype machine. There is a duty of care for all international bosses when it comes to dealing with a prodigious talent. Another injury issue will heighten fears.

Ireland's record goal-scorer and assistant coach Robbie Keane can relate to the attention that Parrott is dealing with, although the climate is different now compared to when the Tallaght starlet cartwheeled into the nation's consciousness.

Brian Kerr's kids really burst onto the scene in the late nineties and even then they had to do remarkable things to truly grab a comparable level of attention. We had Roy Keane and Denis Irwin winning leagues and other Irish players challenging them.

Crucially, Keane wasn't flying solo. There was Damien Duff and Richard Dunne and Andy Reid to name just three so the burden was shared.

As the presence at the top table has dwindled, the expectation on the next big thing has grown.

Parrott was dining at the top table in pre-season, sharing a pitch with Gianluigi Buffon, Cristiano Ronaldo and other blue chip names. In that context, an invite to join the Irish dressing room is unlikely to faze him.

Screaming for Parrott's inclusion in a crucial tie with Switzerland would be unreasonable and McCarthy pretty much made it clear in Galway yesterday that it will be a match for the tried and trusted.

He has welcomed Glenn Whelan's move to Hearts and needs to see James McCarthy get minutes for Crystal Palace. Jeff Hendrick (out of favour) and Robbie Brady (injured) are a source of concern at Burnley.

Eligibility issues surrounding Ryan Johansson (Bayern Munich) and Danny Crowley (Birmingham) aren't unduly worrying the manager because his focus is more short-term.

But there is still an argument to draft in Parrott, perhaps with a view to a debut in the friendly with Bulgaria on September 10 if he is fit.

Ireland are aiming to have a ticket to the finals booked by November but, failing that, the fate will hinge on play-offs next March.

At his current rate of progress, it's entirely conceivable that Parrott will very much be in the picture at that point.

The start of term in September is the ideal window to get the introductions out of the way.

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