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'It'll be great for him to step up and play in the U21 team, and great for the Irish public'

Tottenham striker Troy Parrott is set to feature for Stephen Kenny’s side next month.

Troy Parrott (file pic).
Troy Parrott (file pic).
Image: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

IRELAND U21S BOSS Stephen Kenny says he is excited by the prospect of working with a number of talented youngsters, as his side prepare for upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden next month.

Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrott and Nathan Collins make Kenny’s 22-man panel, despite having previously been named in Mick McCarthy’s provisional Ireland squad.

The players are consequently set to feature for the U21s, though Kenny clarified that they would remain on standby for the seniors.

Parrott, in particular, has been perceived as a gifted prospect, having featured for Tottenham’s first team in pre-season.

The 17-year-old has yet to make a competitive senior debut for Spurs, while injuries have also meant he has not made his debut for the U21s, despite initially having been named in Kenny’s squad for the Luxembourg game last March.

“Troy has been unfortunate in the calendar year with two injuries,” Kenny said. “[He] broke his rib. There was a bad tackle at the end of last season that had him on crutches and out of the [Toulon] tournament.

“He’s not been able to play that many matches in the calendar year. He’s obviously had a very good pre-season.

“At Tottenham, the fact that he’s training with the first team and doing so well speaks volumes for him.”

And asked whether the young Dubliner might be better off going out on loan if first-team opportunities don’t arise at Spurs, Kenny replied: “I’m not going to advise him on whether he should stay or go on loan. That’s not my job. He’s flourishing at the moment, scoring goals in the U23s team.

It’ll be great for him to step up and play in the U21 team, and great for the Irish public to see him and all the other attacking players. We’ve got some really good young strikers in the squad — five of them. They’re all exciting in their own right. I’m personally excited by working with them over the next couple of months.

“We’ve had Adam Idah in, Aaron Connolly, Jonathan Afolabi’s in for the first time, Troy Parrott and Michael Obafemi have not played for us at U21 level yet, so hopefully they’ll all be available.”

Another player that Irish fans will have high hopes for is Nathan Collins. The 18-year-old centre-back has already made his senior debut for Stoke in the Championship, while he recently became the club’s youngest captain.

“It’s quite a unique situation,” Kenny added. “He’s done terrifically. To be playing centre half as an 18-year-old in the Championship, it’s a real baptism of fire. Results have not gone well for Stoke of late, but his personal performances have been very good.”

And while Collins has been getting plenty of game time at senior level, the same cannot be said for everyone in the 22-player panel. However, Kenny urged caution when it was suggested to him that some players could do with a loan move.

“You should only go on loan if you’re nearly guaranteed to play. And that’s not always the case — the players don’t get the minutes they need anyway. It has to be the right club, it’s important not to go too early and at the right moment for the player.

“Someone like Jake Doyle-Hayes, who was 19th man for Aston Villa last year, just on the periphery of the squad. Now he’s gone to Cheltenham. He’s playing every week and doing really well. Someone like that, it really benefits.”

bristol-rovers-v-brighton-and-hove-albion-carabao-cup-second-round-memorial-stadium Aaron Connolly celebrates scoring for Brighton last night. Source: David Davies

And with a young squad that features 11 players eligible for the next U21s qualifying campaign, time is on their side, and loan football looks by no means essential in some cases.

There were encouraging signs last night in particular, as Connolly and Idah both started in the League Cup for Brighton and Norwich respectively, with the former scoring on his full debut for the Seagulls.

“They’ve made a lot of progress. We must remember they’re still eligible for the U19 team for this year’s Euros, that’s how young they are. They both excelled at the Toulon Tournament against some very good teams.

There’s a lot of competition in the positions they’re in in the Premier League. Aaron, for example, was doing really well last season when he tore his hamstring, so that really stifled his loan move [last season] to Luton, he was injured for a large part of it. So there’s no hurry for him to go on loan at the moment, and after playing last night for Brighton, they obviously feel he’s close enough to the first team.

“And the fact that Adam has been selected and played 90 minutes for Norwich, albeit the result didn’t go the way they wanted, I think that’s a great step for him after making that move. He’s not at Norwich that long after coming from College Corinthians [in 2017]. It’s a great night for him.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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