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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 6 April, 2020

'Stephen, I think he's got the best job' - Succession plan a talking point after Bulgaria win

Mick McCarthy also explained what Troy Parrott will have to do to force his way into his plans at senior level.

Mick McCarthy ahead of last night's win over Bulgaria.
Mick McCarthy ahead of last night's win over Bulgaria.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WITH IRELAND’S SENIOR and U21 sides playing within hours of each other last night, the succession plan for the Irish job came into focus. 

Mick McCarthy is in charge of the senior side at the moment, with his sole brief to take them to Euro 2020. He’ll vacate the job after that, at which point Stephen Kenny will be promoted from U21 boss to the senior gig. The timing means that Kenny won’t even be able to complete the U21s’ present qualification campaign for the 2021 U21 Euros. 

With all that has tumbled out of the FAI in the last few months relegating the McCarthy/Kenny handover to the background, it hasn’t hogged headlines to the extent it might have to date. 

Last night, however, the issue stalked Mick McCarthy’s post-match press conference. Prior to McCarthy’s side’s 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria, Kenny’s U21s were highly impressive in coming from behind to beat Sweden 3-1 in Kalmar, maintaining their 100% record in the process. 

Troy Parrott was sprung from the bench in the second-half by Kenny, and responded with two classy goals, the first an instinctive first-time shot, and the second a delicate, dead-eyed chip. 

Having paid tribute to the players at the Aviva who impressed him most, McCarthy was asked about the U21s result, and whether there’s a “freshness of options” among Kenny’s squad. 

“I’ve just been saying to the TV, the 21s have never qualified for anything, have they? I sent Stephen a text today, I said ‘Good luck, all the best.’

They’ve got a good team, that is a good team, and I said that before the game. I think they’re solid in all departments. For me to take them unnecessarily away from that… unless of course, Troy Parrott gets in the team at Tottenham or [Aaron] Connolly gets in the team [at Brighton], [Jayson] Molumby I really like. If I’d have taken them today and gave them half a game, and the 21s got beat – you might give me a bit of credence for that.

“Stephen, I think at the moment, he’s just got the best job. I’ve come in and we’ve got the results and build the momentum, however we’ve done it.

“Stephen’s got the 21s, they’re his team, you’re all talking about coming into the first team, but when he gets the job – it’s not going to be that long now – he’s perfectly placed.

“It’s me that’s come in, could’ve quite easily took the brickbats had we drawn in Gibraltar or lost in Gibraltar, that’s protected him from that.

“Hopefully we qualify, we get to the Euros and it will be seen as a really good decision to have done what we did.

“I’m delighted for him, Keith Andrews, Jim Crawford and the rest of his staff. I thought Friday night [against Armenia] they were different class.

“I didn’t think the opposition were great but they’ve gone today and beaten Sweden and in fairness, Troy Parrott has gone with them and Stephen didn’t pick him. 

“So what I do love about Parrott is that when he is left out of the team he came on and had an effect instead of sulking. Fair play to him I’m delighted for him.”

stephen-kenny Stephen Kenny at his unveiling as Irish U21 manager and Irish senior manager-in-waiting. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Troy Parrott’s name was raised on a couple of different occasions during the press conference, and McCarthy was asked specifically what Parrott would have to do in the next three weeks to be included in his matchday squad for next month’s qualifiers away to Georgia and Switzerland. 

17-year-old Parrott has yet to make a competitive senior appearance for Tottenham, although did appear in a number of pre-season friendlies during the summer and made McCarthy’s 40-man provisional squad for these games with Switzerland and Bulgaria. 

“Get in the first team”, replied McCarthy. 

“You do realise that the U21s and the [Tottenham] U23s where he’s playing is far-removed from where we are playing, don’t you?

“There’s a huge difference. If I think he’s right, I’ll take him. We’ll try and get him watched. It’s interesting if he hadn’t come on and scored his goal:  I wonder what would the questions have been had he not come on, because Stephen’s not played him?

“It’s nice when it works.

“So yes, but James Collins has nailed his place, I would say, after tonight, so I’ll see who we’ve got; see who’s injured, see who’s fit.” 

At the end of the press conference, McCarthy was asked whether he could see the succession plan altered or kicked a little further down the road, given the fact that there has been so much change at the FAI since it was agreed. 

“No. You know the situation”, said McCarthy. 

- Originally published at 00.20

With the warm-up games out of the way, Murray, Bernard and Gavan discuss the renewed cause for optimism, impressive individual player form, and a potential quarter-final versus either South Africa or New Zealand.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the Aviva Stadium

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