Four lessons learned as Ireland's reserves impress against New Zealand

Four lessons learned as Ireland's reserves impress against New Zealand
Derrick Williams celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with teammates Troy Parrott, left, and Kevin Long. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ger McCarthy picks out the key lessons learned as the Republic of Ireland defeated New Zealand 3-1 in tonight's friendly.

All white on the night

There were plenty of positives to take from Thursday night’s friendly albeit against international opposition without a competitive game in 525 days.

Sean Maguire delivered a timely reminder of his potential by thundering home a superb strike to break his international duck. Callum Robinson did likewise when introduced as a second-half substitute.

Add in Derrick William’s impressive performance and goal from left-back, as well as Lee O’Connor’s confident showing on the opposite flank, and Mick McCarthy can be content with his second string’s efforts.

Who’s a pretty boy?

Troy Parrott in action against Michael Boxall of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Troy Parrott in action against Michael Boxall of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
 

Hard to believe that it is three years since Troy Parrott helped the DDSL claim the SFAI U14 Kennedy Cup at the University of Limerick. Since then, scoring regularly for Tottenham Hotspur U23s and progressing to the fringes of Mauricio Pochettino’s first team has helped sharpen the striker’s skillset.

Parrott’s much-anticipated Republic of Ireland senior debut saw the 17-year-old deployed as a lone striker. Unafraid to drift in behind New Zealand’s defence or front up to Winston Reid, Parrott didn’t shirk his responsibilities and setup Sean Maguire’s goal.

Yet apart from one blocked shot, the debutant didn’t make the goal-scoring impact craved by Irish supporters desperate to anoint the next incarnation of Robbie Keane. It is early days and Troy Parrott has plenty to look forward to in an Irish jersey. Tonight was merely the first tentative step.

A new pair of hands

Despite rarely being tested, Kieran O’Hara’s 64 minutes were essential as the on-loan Burton Albion goalkeeper could yet be called upon for Monday night’s showdown with Denmark.

Darren Randolph missed three games due to a persistent thigh strain heading into the international break and O’Hara will get the nod should the Middlesbrough shot-stopper miss out. The 23-year-old could do little about Callum McCowatt’s opener but produced an excellent save to prevent a deflected Storm Roux effort from hitting the net.

O’Hara did everything asked of him during a routine friendly, an important confidence boost should the young goalkeeper be thrust into a more pressure-filled environment on Monday.

Heirs to Hoolahan’s throne

There’s little doubt that the Republic of Ireland has lacked a creative spark since Wes Hoolahan’s retirement.

Sitting behind the Irish front three, Jack Byrne was at the hub of some of his country’s best moments. Positive on the ball and looking to attack at every opportunity, the Shamrock Rovers midfielder showed glimpses of his capabilities.

Experience is all Byrne lacks but will continue to pick up senior caps under Stephen Kenny if the League of Ireland star produces consistent displays for club and country.

Experience is something Robbie Brady does not lack with 46 senior appearances under his belt. The Burnley midfielder looked rusty following a long layoff but conjured up one of his trademark set-piece deliveries for Ireland’s first goal. A fully fit Brady would represent a welcome boost to Ireland’s qualification hopes.

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