Richard Dunne reckons the time is right to fast-track Troy Parrott into the senior international set-up after the 17-year-old striker took another major step forward by setting up a goal on his debut for Spurs, as they beat Juventus 3-2 in a friendly on Sunday.
“I think looking purely from a fan’s side of things, it’s a position that we’re lacking in,” said the legendary defender.
“We want more goals in the team. If we’ve got someone in and around a Premier League side, there’s the opportunity to involve him in the senior team. I’m sure Mick (McCarthy) and Robbie (Keane) will have watched him an awful lot more than I have and will have a better idea of what level his development is at. I just think if you look at what Wales did a few years ago, they just threw in a load of young kids and then did really well.
“They started to get them to develop them into first-team players. So it could be an opportunity if he comes and plays for Ireland and does well. We can’t wait forever for kids to become first-team regulars before they play for Ireland — if they’re nearly first-team squad members at Premier League clubs, they won’t be a million miles off our first team.”
Dunne is also delighted to see that 18-year-old Adam Idah from Cork has already hit the pre-season goal trail for newly promoted Norwich.
“It’s amazing to have two young centre-forwards at Premier League clubs almost knocking on the door of getting into the starting XI,” he said.
“I’m sure over the course of the season they’ll be in and around it, and I think for Mick and for Robbie it will be just brilliant to be able to go and watch a Premier League player, look at a top-class centre-forward and have the option of choosing him.
“Whether they’re ready at the start of the season or ready before the season is out, I just think, if it was to go well for them, over the course of the next 15 years you could have two players who turn themselves into regulars for Ireland.”
Dunne also thinks that it reflects well on Irish football’s broader underage set-up that, even with a number of first-choice players, like Parrot and Idah, unavailable, Tom Mohan’s U19s have still been able to make it through to a European Championship semi-final in Armenia tomorrow.
“It’s amazing, it’s brilliant, it’s a great achievement,” he said. “You hope in a few years, you don’t look back and think what might have been if we had had everyone. But if we can go into the game on Wednesday and get another great result you never know what might happen then in the final. They should be very proud of what they’ve achieved already at this tournament.
“I worked with the U16s last year and you can see the talent is coming through, also with the way the set-up has been in the last couple of years with the U17s and U19s. We seem to have game-winning players and creative players. Fingers crossed, it seems to be the start of something positive.”
Speaking at the home of Kells Blackwater FC as the ‘Festival of Football’ continues in Meath, the former international dismissed the idea that the turmoil at the FAI might have any impact on the senior team as they prepare to face into the second half of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
“The players, they won’t know from day to day, they won’t know what’s happening this week in the FAI, they won’t hear anything,” said Dunne. “When the games come around they will hear murmurs of what happened that week but I don’t think it will affect them performance-wise.
“If it comes down to something where it’s an issue with the manager or a member of the footballing staff, it might play on their minds a little bit, but presidential outcomes or financial stuff isn’t the jurisdiction of the players.
“And Mick is great. He is all about the football and protecting the footballer and looking after them. I don’t think the players would even consider going to Mick, saying ‘I wonder what’s going on’. It’s not of interest to them and Mick can take all the questions and deflect it all away. For me, it’s about getting to the Euros and, if he leaves Ireland on a high, that’s all he’s interested in.”