The only doubt Stephen Kenny has about Troy Parrott’s readiness for U21 action relates to the player’s current injury problems. Otherwise, the manager is entirely convinced that the 17-year-old Spurs striker will have no problems coping with being fast-tracked through to the penultimate level in Irish football.
“You don’t have to be the smartest man in the room to see that he can step up,” said Kenny at his first full squad announcement yesterday. “He’s got a lot of talent. Once he comes into an environment where he can flourish and enjoy his football, I’m sure he’ll do well. I’d say he’s ready for it based on what I’ve seen. I believe all the players we’ve selected, those young players we’ve accelerated — Lee O’Connor, Conor Coventry, Adam Idah, Troy Parrott — I have no doubt they are ready.
“We’ve promoted Gavin Bazunu as well and he’s younger again, he’s still eligible for the U17 team this year. So, yeah, we’ve been impressed with them.”
Unfortunately, a toe injury means it’s not yet clear if Parrott — who has been playing for the Spurs U23 team and was a stand-out performer for Ireland in the U17 Euro Finals last year — will be fit enough to make his U21 debut against Luxembourg in Ireland’s opening Euro 2021 qualifier in Tallaght on Sunday, March 24.
“He’s had a procedure and the Tottenham medical team are in contact with ours,” said Kenny. “He is somewhat doubtful at this stage so we’ll have to see. He had the problem for some time, I think, and they found a window for him to have the procedure and they decided to utilise that.” For Kenny, who will succeed Mick McCarthy as senior manager, seeing how players perform at U21 level will tell him a lot about their prospects of graduating, like him, to the senior set-up.
“That’s why it’s such an important age group,” he observed. “Because those questions can be answered based on performances in the competition. There are 11 games this year, all really good games, so that’s the importance of the qualifiers and the subsequent (Toulon) tournament that we’re in. It puts players into good matches and gives us a good a view of where they are. And that will be a learning process for us all, I feel, especially for me to witness that.”
Kenny has welcomed confirmation that UEFA have decided to expand the Euro 2021 finals in Hungary and Slovakia from 12 to 16 teams.
“Because Hungary and Slovakia are hosting the tournament, initially it was nine group winners and one second-placed team out of nine groups. So I suppose with the 16 teams, that gives you the play-offs and that gives you a greater chance.
“Having been in Nyon for the draw, there was widespread determination to give people a greater opportunity to qualify. It used to be only one host that qualified and now it’s two, and they are two teams that traditionally might not have qualified. So it did really give a very narrow opportunity for teams. By introducing the four extra places, it gives everyone more optimism, so it’s a good thing really.”
Finally, the U21 boss batted away a question about the controversy surrounding Declan Rice winning Ireland’s Young Player of the Year award.
“I don’t really have an opinion about it,” he said. “I spoke already previously about Declan Rice. The award is of no interest to me really.”
Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City)
Defenders: Darragh Leahy (Bohemians), Dara O’Shea (Exeter City, on loan from West Bromwich Albion), Barry Cotter (Ipswich Town), Corrie Ndaba (Ipswich Town), Conor Masterson (Liverpool), Lee O’Connor (Manchester United), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Liam Scales (UCD AFC)
Midfielders: Jayson Molumby (Brighton and Hove Albion), Jake Doyle Hayes (Cambridge United, on loan from Aston Villa), Connor Ronan (FC DAC 1904, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jamie Lennon (St. Patrick’s Athletic), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Dan Mandroiu (Bohemians).
Attackers: Adam Idah (Norwich City), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Neil Farrugia (UCD AFC), Zachary Elbouzedi (Waterford), Michael O’Connor (Linfield), Simon Power (FC Dordrecht, on loan from Norwich City), Aaron Drinan (Waterford, on loan from Ipswich Town).