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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 13 December, 2019
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Bright prospects and lesser lights impress as Ireland see off New Zealand in Aviva friendly

Derrick Williams, Sean Maguire and Calllum Robinson all netted their first Irish goals in a comeback win.

Sean Maguire celebrates his goal.
Sean Maguire celebrates his goal.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Republic of Ireland 3

New Zealand 1

INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL IS always about a thousand quiet dignities, and it usually on muted friendly nights like these that they make themselves known. 

Thus it was against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium tonight, as Ireland’s lesser lights and brightest prospects collected significant milestones in a come-from-behind 3-1 win. 

All of the goalscorers struck for the first time at international level – Derrick Williams equalised from a corner just before half-time, before Sean Maguire and Callum Robinson won the game in the latter period – while debutants Troy Parrott and Lee O’Connor set up those final two goals. 

The ground was two-thirds empty and at times had all of the atmosphere of a suburban optician’s with the bulk of the attention focused on Monday’s decisive qualifier with Denmark, and while few of those who played tonight will appear again in 2019, this is nonetheless a night many of them will rightly cling to for a while. 

None more so than Troy Parrott.

The lone, throaty “C’mon Troy” heard as the game kicked off gave an indication as to where much of the crowd’s emphasis was for much of this game. 

Parrott carries himself with a fabulous, surly adolescent hunch, and an early moment tonight showed he wasn’t going to be cowed by the experience of his senior debut. When he fouled Winston Reid in the centre-circle – a player making his first appearance after an injury-ruined 18 months – he wasn’t shy in squaring up to him amid the afters. 

troy-parrott-and-winston-reid Parrott and Reid square up. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

While Parrott largely played on the – ahem – last shoulder, he made his most significant contributions in other ways, most plainly in winning the ball back to lay it to Seani Maguire, who made his first international goal a delightful curling effort from the edge of the box. 

Parrott’s subtle and clever movement gave Maguire a series of other chances. When he dropped deep, Maguire drifted inside from the right and caused trouble by breaking beyond the last defender. He might have had his first goal earlier, had he not dithered with a one-on-one having collected a ball slung forward by Kevin Long. 

Maguire played a role in Ireland’s first goal, too, winning the corner from which Derrick Williams headed the equaliser a minute before the break. 

That Ireland had to equalise was because New Zealand had taken a half-hour lead entirely against the run of play, when Callum McCowatt steered Liberato Cacace’s low cross beyond Kieran O’Hara. 

Despite that goal, Ireland were the only side who played any football. (Framed print-outs of that sentence will soon be made available on The42′s online store.)

Two minutes before the hour, Parrott had his chance. Byrne pounced on an error and fed Maguire infield, who slipped the ball for Parrott, but the teenager’s shot was blocked by Stefan Marinovic. 

Nonetheless, he and Byrne – who was a persistent menace without finding the killer ball he constantly sought – left to an ovation on the hour mark. 

Maguire remained a threat, and later he turned provider again – this time for Callum Robinson – whose shot was saved by Marinovic. 

Robinson, meanwhile, wasn’t to be denied again, as he headed a stunning Lee O’Connor cross beyond Marinovic. That O’Connor – tonight playing a senior game at international level before doing so at club level – was mobbed while Robinson wheeled away in celebration was proof of the quality of the delivery. 

Maguire had made way a minute earlier and he can be very happy with a night that began tentatively. His ability to cut inside from the left of Ireland’s attack, which is lacking when the left-footed James McClean is picked there, is something worth pondering ahead of Monday. 

In terms of other selection hints for Monday: that Robbie Brady played the full game doesn’t augur well for his hopes of starting against the Danes, while Callum O’Dowda curiously appeared off the bench as a full-back, perhaps in the Conor Hourihane-patented you-need-game-time-so-I’ll-put-you-at-left-back’ gig. 

Robinson remained pretty lively. A fierce long-range shot was beaten away by Marinovic, while his tenacity in winning the ball back in the closing stages was matched with subtlety as he threaded a gorgeous pass through for Collins. 

The striker, however, saw his effort blocked by Mainovic. Mark Travers was briefly called into action at the other end, while Ireland didn’t extend their lead late on. 

The game ended with a PA call to arms asking fans to arrive early on Monday night, as attention now switches to the business at hand. 

That said, this is a night some will rightly look back upon favourably in the years to come. 

Republic of Ireland: Kieran O’Hara (Mark Travers, 65′); Lee O’Connor, Ciaran Clark, Kevin Long, Derrick Williams (Callum O’Dowda, 55′); Josh Cullen, Jack Byrne (Alan Judge 65′), Alan Browne (Conor Hourihane, 65′); Robbie Brady (captain), Troy Parrott (Callum Robinson, 60′), Seani Maguire (James Collins, 73′)

New Zealand: Stefan Marinovic; Storm Roux (Tim Payne, 90′), Winston Reid (captain) (Bill Tuiloma, HT), Michael Boxall (Tommy Smith, 75′), Liberto Cacace; Sarpeet Singh, Joe Bell, Ryan Thomas (Michael McGlinchey 75′); Callum McCowatt (Elliot Collier, 85′), Chris Wood (Andre de Jong, 75′), Elijah Just 

Referee: Robert Jenkins (Wales)

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the Aviva Stadium

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