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The 17-year-old set for the biggest night of his career so far

Troy Parrott will make his Ireland senior debut against New Zealand this evening.

Troy Parrott has regularly impressed for Ireland at underage level.
Troy Parrott has regularly impressed for Ireland at underage level.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Nov 14th 2019, 8:30 AM

1. The 17-year-old set for the biggest night of his career so far

IT HAS BEEN a remarkable few months for Dublin-born striker Troy Parrott.

Having starred for Ireland at underage level, he featured regularly in pre-season for Tottenham’s senior team against sides of the calibre of Juventus and Real Madrid.

Since then, he has also made his competitive senior debut for North Londoners against Colchester in the League Cup, in addition to recently making Spurs’ bench for the first time in the Premier League in the absence of the injured Harry Kane.

While he has yet to feature for Spurs in a league fixture, he continues to impress for their underage side, scoring four times in their Uefa Youth League clash last month.

It was only in September that Parrott made his debut for Ireland U21s — it would have been sooner had it not been for injuries — while he has impressed for Stephen Kenny’s team, scoring three goals in three appearances, in addition to getting sent off amid a moment of frustration during the home encounter with Italy.

This evening, however, undoubtedly represents the biggest moment of Parrott’s career so far.

Confirmed to make his senior debut, Parrott is set to become the third youngest senior international after two ex-Spurs players, Robbie Keane and Jimmy Holmes.

Keane, of course, went on to enjoy a brilliant career at club and international level, ultimately becoming Ireland’s record goalscorer.

Holmes’ story, though, illustrates the perils of football and how talent is no guarantee of sustained success.

An accomplished full-back, the Dubliner started his career at Coventry, making over 100 appearances for the Sky Blues.

In 1977, he joined Tottenham for £120,000, eventually playing alongside the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.

Yet at 26, he suffered a bad leg break that ensured he never played top-flight football again, with another Irish youngster, Chris Hughton, taking his place in the Spurs team.

Personal problems followed, as Holmes struggled to get to grips with life after football, before ultimately enjoying a successful career as a policeman.

“I was feeling sorry for myself,” he told the Coventry Telegraph in 2017.

“It took me 13 months before I could get back playing again. In between that I went to different places and did different fitness regimes and stuff like that. I went to Headley Court which was for the Army officers and people injured in Northern Ireland.

“I was there for about a month or so and that changed my life completely because I was like a little wimp with a broken leg and there were lads walking round, younger than me, with legs blown off and arms gone, and all sorts of things.

“I shook my head and thought, ‘what are you doing Jim?’

“I had had a great part of my life as a footballer, as an international, and I realised I was lucky just to have been part of it.”

The dream for Parrott would be coming close to emulating Keane, but Holmes represents the cautionary tale that shows how fleeting success in football can be, which is why it’s important that the exciting young striker savours evenings like tonight.

New Zealand may represent another dour friendly to some, but for Parrott, it is the reward for the endless hours of hard work he has doubtless put in to get to this stage.

2. Will Robbie Brady do enough to earn Denmark spot?

robbie-brady Robbie Brady is set to captain Ireland against New Zealand tonight. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Of the 11 players confirmed to play for Ireland against New Zealand this evening, it’s difficult to imagine any starting against Denmark on Monday.

And that seems a fair enough call from McCarthy. If, for example, he were to play Shane Duffy tonight and the defender picked up an injury, the Irish boss would open himself up to severe criticism.

The one player picked tonight who might have a slight chance of figuring against the Danes is Robbie Brady.

At his best, the Burnley winger would probably make it into many people’s best Ireland XI.

Indeed, in the earlier part of the group, he started in both the 1-0 win over Georgia and the 1-1 draw with Denmark.

Yet the 27-year-old has not played for Ireland since coming off the bench to score in the 2-0 victory over Gibraltar back in June.

Injuries and indifferent form has restricted him largely to cameo roles for Burnley this season — he has made only six Premier League appearances and just one of them was a start, the 2-1 loss to Leicester on 19 October.

He can be useful on set pieces and remains one of the most technically gifted players in the squad.

But you get the sense that Brady needs a really strong performance tonight to be in anyway considered for next week’s crunch clash.

3. Can Ireland’s exciting youngsters capture the public’s imagination?

“The Irish footballing public are connecting with this group of players,” said Stephen Kenny of his U21 side last month.

His words were subsequently backed up, as Ireland delivered an impressive performance full of good, enterprising play against Italy in front of a record crowd at Tallaght Stadium.

The contrast with the mood around the senior camp is stark.

McCarthy and players have lamented the “negativity” surrounding them of late.

Despite enjoying an encouraging start to the campaign, following an underwhelming draw with Georgia and a disappointing loss to Switzerland, any sense of optimism was swiftly extinguished, as a sense of deja vu stemming from the Martin O’Neill era became apparent.

For many supporters, it was the manner of the performance and in particular, the lack of imagination on the ball that proved so frustrating and which was exacerbated by the U21s proving that Irish players are capable of playing good football on the international stage — even allowing for all the caveats of it being a different level and a less pressurised environment et cetera.

Tonight though, perhaps with recent performances of Stephen Kenny’s side in mind, McCarthy has rewarded two of the U21 players in question. Celtic’s Lee O’Connor and Tottenham’s Troy Parrott will make their debuts.

And indeed, there are plenty of other reasons to be optimistic. Josh Cullen and Jack Byrne have both been in good form at club level, and demonstrated in their respective international debuts against Bulgaria last September that they are more than comfortable playing on this stage.

Indeed, just as the Bulgaria game featured far better football than subsequent competitive encounters with Georgia and Switzerland, so tonight’s New Zealand match is likely to be far easier on the eye than Monday’s fixture with Denmark.

Of course, the low-stakes nature of the occasion and the inferiority of the opposition are big contributing factors and even if McCarthy were to pick the exact same 11 players to face the Danes, there is no guarantee they would be able to play technically accomplished football in such circumstances.

Nevertheless, while more people will certainly turn out for Monday’s game, it would be a shame if one of the most promising youngsters Ireland has produced in recent years were to make his debut in front of a half-empty stadium.

Parrott’s presence and the excitement it entails, at least, should guarantee a few more bums on seats.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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