Opportunity knocks for Republic of Ireland's teenage sensation Troy Parrott in New Zealand friendly

Troy Parrott will win his Republic of Ireland senior debut against New Zealand tonight.
Brendan Crossan in Abbotstown

International friendly: Republic of Ireland v New Zealand (tonight, Dublin, 7.45pm)

REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy hasn’t ruled out retaining U21 sensation Troy Parrott after this evening's international friendly against New Zealand for Monday night’s make-or-break Euro 2020 showdown with Denmark.

The hugely gifted 17-year-old is receiving a similar drum-roll ahead of his senior international debut as Aaron Connolly did against Georgia last month.

McCarthy confirmed to reporters in Abbotstown yesterday morning that the languid Spurs striker, midfielder Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers and Celtic defender Lee O’Connor will all start against New Zealand.

But it was Parrott’s name who was on everybody’s lips.

McCarthy was happy to indulge the question: ‘Will Parrott feature against Denmark?’

“We’re playing New Zealand in a friendly and it’s a great opportunity for him prior to our biggest game,” said the manager.

“I’ve been asked the question: ‘What happens if he scores two goals?’ There’ll be a big clamour for him to play [against Denmark].

“Well, I hope he does score two goals and he plays brilliantly and then I’ve a clamour in my own head that he should be part of that squad to play against Denmark.

“And we haven’t scored that many goals, have we? And he’s a goal-scorer.”

Parrott has earned just one first team start with Spurs this season – a Carabao Cup defeat to Colchester United (on penalties) – but he has been in superb form for Stephen Kenny’s U21 Republic of Ireland side.

Earlier this month, he bagged four goals for Spurs U19s against Red Star Belgrade in a Youth League game.

The much talked about teenager had tongues wagging again after a sublime piece of skill in training that even had McCarthy drooling.

“He did something yesterday when a ball came into him,” McCarthy explained.

“He twisted - he twisted me inside out watching him - got it, turned and got his shot off. He looks very good technically.”

The Dubliner will be the youngest player to play for the Republic of Ireland senior team since Robbie Keane made his debut as a 16-year-old.

Despite his lofty assessment of Parrott, McCarthy was keen to dampen down expectations placed on the youngster’s shoulders and comparisons with Ireland’s record goal-scorer.

“Can I say something: Robbie Keane was playing in the Wolves' team at 17, playing competitive football in a first team environment, and there is a huge difference.

“If he played from August 5, when the season started, and played Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday he would be able to play to his full potential.

“But it doesn't mean to say that if a chance dropped to him in a really important game that he might not be able to score it.”

Robbie Brady is ready to return to international duty this evening and has an outside chance of being involved on Monday night should be impress against tonight’s minnows, who are ranked 121st in the world and haven’t actually played a game since they faced India June 2018.

New Zealand's new manager Danny Hay will be depending on Burnley’s Chris Wood who has bagged almost a goal every two games in his 54 appearances for his country.

While McCarthy’s mind is probably drifting to Monday night, he isn’t taking New Zealand for granted.

“Hey,” the manager warned, “this will be a competitive game. When I look back on any ‘friendlies’ that we used to play in – they weren’t ‘friendlies’. So let’s get that out of the way.

“I’ve never played a friendly in my life. I always regarded these games as competitive when I was a player. Because it’s for you, isn’t it? You want to stay in the team or for some of these New Zealand lads they’ve got to get in the team.

“They will be competitive; they’ll all be as fit as fleas, I have no doubt, so it’s up to our players to compete at the highest level they can compete at.

“And for them to make sure it’s competitive and run as hard as they can and challenge as hard as they can and make it that I go: ‘Wow, he looks ready’.”

Virtually all of the Republic's first teamers will be in the stands for tonight's clash but there is a small window of opportunity for a couple of the reserves to be involved against the Danes.

Step forward Troy Parrott, Robbie Brady and Jack Byrne...

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