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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 13 December, 2019

Fringe players and prospects given chance to shine against NZ, but few spots against Denmark at stake

Mick McCarthy has already named his team for tonight’s friendly with New Zealand – just don’t expect many of them to be involved on Monday night.

Mick McCarthy at Irish training yesterday.
Mick McCarthy at Irish training yesterday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


And unlike the canonical fall of the original, tonight promises little in the way of lurking surprise or subterfuge. 

In fact, Mick McCarthy took an unprecedented step in naming his line-up to face New Zealand more than 24 hours ahead of kick-off.

It’s the first time this has happened since the days of Trap; that it was released along with a link to tickets still on sale is perhaps a hint as to why it happened. 

Nonetheless, as McCarthy advertised earlier in the day – tonight sees a debut for 17-year-old Tottenham striker Troy Parrott, around whom hype has been building for months. 

Parrott was still eligible for the Irish U17s during the summer, but instead found himself on Tottenham’s pre-season tour playing against the likes of Juventus and Manchester United. 

When he made his senior debut for Spurs in the Carabao Cup two months ago he became the first Irish player to play for the club since Robbie Keane, and tonight he will become Ireland’s youngest international since…Robbie Keane. 

robbie-keane-and-troy-parrott Robbie Keane and Troy Parrott. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He’s been taking sessions with Keane this week, and McCarthy says if “you can’t learn from him you can’t learn from anyone.”

Keeping the hype in abeyance, the manager was unwilling to be heap Parrott with the kind of praise he reserved for Georgia last month, although didn’t deny his potential. 

“I don’t think I’ve seen the full potential just yet in the couple of training sessions that we’ve had, but he did something yesterday, when a ball came in to him and he turned and he got his shot off which was terrific, and you can see just from that one little cameo he’s got something special.”

There was similar clarity around the prospects of tonight’s players facing Denmark next Monday. Very little, basically: McCarthy said at yesterday’s pre-match press conference that he wouldn’t be starting those he had in mind for Denmark. 

Still, Robbie Brady is probably in the best position to force his way into the team on Monday night, possibly at the expense of Callum Robinson, who looks less comfortable on the right of as front three than he does centrally. 

That Alan Browne starts tonight hints that Conor Hourihane will return to face Denmark having been dropped for the Swiss game last month while the absence of Alan Judge, Callum O’Dowda, Scott Hogan and James Collins from the starting line-up for tonight’s game augurs well for their hopes of at least being sprung from the bench against the Danes. 

The caprice of injury, however, means everyone will be out to impress McCarthy tonight. None more so than Jack Byrne, who is having a kind of dream November. 

He last walked off the Aviva pitch with the FAI Cup, he returns tonight for a first senior international start as the reigning PFAI Player of the Year. Doing enough to nudge his way onto the bench for the Danish game should be his ambition, where the quality of his set-piece delivery might work in his favour if the game is alive in the closing minutes. 

If Byrne does play on Monday, he will be the first domestic-based player to play a competitive senior game for Ireland since another Rovers player of the same name: Pat Byrne, who played a 1985 World Cup qualifier against…well Denmark, obviously. 

danny-hay New Zealand manager Danny Hay. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It’s been slightly tricky for Ireland to get a read on New Zealand: the All Whites, as they are pointedly known, haven’t even had a game in 18 months. While the European Championships fit snugly in the middle of the four-year World Cup cycle for Ireland, New Zealand’s Oceania Nations Cup doubles as World Cup qualifying, leaving months and months vacant of games. 

Given the costs involved in gathering the squad together, long stretches without a game are not unusual. 

McCarthy could have watched them up close on Monday if he wished, as they were forced to train on an Abbottstown pitch adjacent to Ireland’s when they discovered their reserved Wayside Celtic surface was waterlogged. 

He chose not to, though. “No. I don’t think that’s appropriate. They weren’t doing it to us, so we’ll go and play against them. Maybe if it was to qualify, I might have a little look at it.” 

McCarthy is well-acquainted with one of New Zealand’s more notable names: Burnley striker Chris Wood, with whom he worked at Ipswich. Another former Ipswich player, Tommy Smith, is in the All Whites’ squad, which is captained by West Ham’s defender Winston Reid. 

Manager Danny Hay might be recognisable to some: he spent three, injury-plagued years at Leeds United under David O’Leary around the turn of the century, and made Premier League appearances against Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs along with playing European games against Barcelona, Lazio and AC Milan. 

While this is New Zealand’s first international game with Ireland, it’s not their first international game in Dublin. Ahead of the 2017 Confederations Cup, they included in their preparations a friendly with Cabinteely at Stradbrook, which they won 5-2. 

With Parrott leading the line, tonight is a game that may give us pointers for the future, albeit a future that begins after Monday night. 

Republic of Ireland: O’Hara; O’Connor, Long, Clark, Williams; Cullen, Browne, Byrne; Brady, Parrott, Maguire 

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Gavin Cooney

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