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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 13 December, 2019

McCarthy: Youngsters to get chance in New Zealand game that 'doesn't have same importance' as Danish clash

Jack Byrne, Troy Parrott, and Lee O’Connor are all likely to feature in Thursday’s friendly.

Mick McCarthy speaks to the media today.
Mick McCarthy speaks to the media today.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ONCE MORE UNTO the breach, then, as the Irish squad assemble at Abbottstown for the final time this year. 

It’s a defining week, but it will be a very steady build to the crescendo. Before the must-win Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark next Monday though, Ireland must get Thursday’s friendly with New Zealand out of the way. 

The relative emphasis on each game betrayed itself a couple of times during Mick McCarthy’s press conference this afternoon.

While McCarthy was able to tell us unprompted that Denmark have lost just one of their last 31 games – and that defeat was suffered by its futsal team, who were an emergency stand-in against Slovakia as the first team were in dispute with the Danish FA – he admitted he hadn’t yet seen anything of New Zealand. 

To be fair, recent footage of New Zealand is hard to come by – Thursday will be their first game in 18 months.

“I haven’t scouted them”, said McCarthy. “We will be looking at whatever our analyst has got, and we will see how they have played in the past and how they might play on Thursday.

“It’s been pretty difficult, there hasn’t been a whole lot out there, certainly recent footage.”

Burnley striker Chris Wood is among the All Whites’ more recognisable players, whom McCarthy worked with at Ipswich. 

McCarthy will get an early chance to see them up close if he wishes – their training pitch was waterlogged this morning and so they trained on an Abbottstown pitch adjacent to Ireland. 

Injury-wise, doubts continue to shroud Aaron Connolly’s availability. He was taken off against Manchester United with a groin injury, and he is set for a scan this afternoon.

Darren Randolph made his return to Middlesbrough duty over the weekend after a thigh strain, and McCarthy said he will be managed at training if he needs to be. “We’ll be taking care of him. Anybody who has been injured, we discuss it with their medical team as well along with ours. 

“We’ll be making sure we look after him. I’m not bothered if he’s training, we just want him playing on Monday.”

Ireland have no other injury issues, with 17-year-old Troy Parrott reporting for senior duty last night. 

Parrott is likely to make a senior debut on Thursday night, as is Celtic defender Lee O’Connor, while Jack Byrne will be involved too. McCarthy cast doubt as to how much Thursday’s game is an audition for inclusion against Denmark, however. 

“You’ve seen my team, it’s been pretty settled.

“Is someone going to come in and rip it up? And bear in mind that we are playing a friendly against New Zealand. I say we need to play them with the same respect, but quite clearly the game doesn’t have the same importance. The players know that, I know that, I’ve been there. You want to play well in a friendly and there are a few nerves, but it’s not like Monday night.

“You’ve seen my starting line-ups, there haven’t been many changes. Let’s see what Monday brings, and let’s see what Thursday brings first.” 

Given the result doesn’t matter, what outcome would McCarthy consider a success? 

“The performance, I guess, and the performance of any young players who might get capped. See how the play, see how they respond to playing in the first team: that’s always going to be a measure of the success.” 

This squad has been boosted by the returns of David McGoldrick and Robbie Brady, both of whom missed last month’s pair of qualifiers in Georgia and Switzerland. 

McCarthy admitted he missed McGoldrick last month. ”

“I would always prefer to have my best players playing, and he has been our stand-out centre-forward, so any team or any ilk, any stature would miss a player like him, especially how he was playing, and he was loving it.

“The goal he scored against Switzerland, of course, I think everybody loved him for that.” 

Brady, meanwhile, is one of those with a realistic shot of propelling himself into the team against Denmark. “He certainly has [a chance] because he’s been a tried and trusted, tried and tested player for the first team on a regular basis.

“He’s played in this campaign and yes, he’s not had much football, but he’ll be getting some game-time against New Zealand, certainly.” 

Proceedings ended with a nod to what is truly looming on the horizon. 

Is this a legacy-defining week? 

“I hope so, in a positive way.” 

Seven days to go. 

- Originally published at 14.21 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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