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O'Brien unsure if Tottenham starlet will feature for Ireland in Euros

The U17s boss is looking forward to the country’s hosting of the European Championships.

Tottenham's Troy Parrott has impressed for Ireland at underage level in recent months.
Tottenham's Troy Parrott has impressed for Ireland at underage level in recent months.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

COLIN O’BRIEN SAYS he is unsure if highly-rated Tottenham youngster Troy Parrott will be available next month, as his Ireland side prepare to host the U17 European Championships.

Parrott and Man City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu are both eligible for the tournament, despite having been included in Stephen Kenny’s last U21 squad owing to their exceptional progress in recent months.

And though ex-Shamrock Rovers player Bazunu is set to feature in the upcoming tournament, whether the Spurs’ promising 17-year-old joins him remains to be seen.

Parrott could also potentially play in the Euro U19 finals in July, with Ireland one of eight teams to have qualified for the tournament. Asked whether the young Dubliner could potentially appear in both events, O’Brien was non-committal.

“[It's] not known yet, there’s a bit of work to do with the club as well. Within the next two weeks we’ll know exactly where we’re at,” he said.

“[We’re] always hopeful, but we won’t know for the next couple of weeks.”

The ex-Cork City player continued: “Once Gavin is fit, he will be with the squad. He’s had an interesting few months himself, getting called up by Stephen with the 21s, good experience for him there, but he’ll be coming back into our squad as an important player and we’re looking forward to having him back in.”

Meanwhile, the manager said his side will relish the opportunity to come up against some of the best teams in the world at U17 level.

The Irish team were paired alongside Belgium, Czech Republic and Greece in the draw for the tournament, which takes place between 3 and 19 May, in Dublin on Thursday evening.

While progressing to the quarter-finals won’t be easy, the group could potentially have been tougher, with Group B (Netherlands, France, England and Sweden) and Group D (Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria) both looking like archetypal ‘Group of Death’ contenders.

With the way the elite rounds went, England and Germany would be top tier at this age group as well and they went [in as] second seeds,” O’Brien said.

“Similar to last season, [there was] always going to be a Group of Death — probably two of them this year with B and D. So two very big countries will not get out of their groups.

“But we’re very focused on ourselves. We’ve played two of the teams in our group, Czech Republic and Belgium, but our main focus now is on Greece, who came out of a group finishing second to Spain in the elite phase. That’s our first game and we’ve been 10 months waiting for this. The next four weeks now we can sink our teeth into the preparation.”

Ireland have a decent recent track record at the European Championships, reaching the quarter-final stage in both 2017 and 2018, bowing out following a controversial penalty shootout loss to the Netherlands last time out.

And O’Brien is hopeful the current crop of youngsters can match and possibly even surpass the performances of their predecessors.

Look, it’s the biggest thing for them right now. It’s the best of the best coming to Ireland, it really is. There’ll be really high-quality players and real high-tempo matches, so they’ll have a great opportunity to test themselves against the best.”

And are they used to playing in front of the type of big crowds expected in Ireland’s three group games (two of which take place at Tallaght Stadium, with Waterford Regional Sports Centre the venue for the second match against the Czechs)?

“Probably not, but our preparation this year, we’ve done a lot of it at home, so they’ve been used to the stadium, used to where we’re training and actually staying.”

Home advantage, O’Brien added, could potentially be both a help and a hindrance to this Irish team.

“I think it could be a bit of both with the characteristic of this age group. Irish supporters will always get behind their team and that’s what we’ll be looking for them to do, but people have got to bear in mind that this is going to be the players’ first competitive games, for Ireland, in Ireland, and it happens to be the European finals.”

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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