While Stephen Kenny has reaffirmed his support to teen sensation Troy Parrott following his red card on Thursday, the Ireland U21 boss feels there’s sufficient talent in his ranks to continue their surge in Iceland on Thursday.
Unbeaten Ireland head into their fifth qualifier in Iceland without their star man after he incurred a second booking in the stalemate with the group’s Italy on Thursday. Italy’s Moise Kean was also dismissed for the top seeds in the same incident.
Although the decision of German referee Sascha Stegemann to brandish a second yellow card to Parrott at Tallaght Stadium puzzled the record crowd of 7,231, Uefa don’t accept appeals for bookings.
It was the first red card for the Tottenham striker at international level and he trudged out of the stadium with his hood up and dejected.
“Troy is a brilliant young man who has shown character before,” said Kenny of the 17-year-old who made his first-team debut for Spurs last month in the Carabao Cup.
“After scoring the winner on his U21 debut against Armenia, I left him on the bench in the Sweden game three days later for tactical and freshness reasons. Troy was disappointed to be left out but how did he respond to it? He comes on to get two unbelievable goals when we we’re 1-0 behind.
“That’s how you define character, that’s the definition of it for me. Troy was very harshly treated by the referee against Italy.
We moved him to the left into the position left by Aaron Connolly, a slot he doesn’t normally play, but he could have scored twice. He has a great instinct for getting into goalscoring chances.
In addition to Parrott and Connolly, who has been promoted to the senior squad, Kenny won’t have Jonathan Afolabi on today’s flight to Reykjavik. His injury adds to the striker shortage, forcing Kenny to draft Aaron Drinan into his panel. The Ipswich Town forward is currently on loan with Swedish second division outfit GAIS.
“I thought Adam Idah was a handful for the Italy defenders all night,” noted Kenny. “Bear in mind that his marker, Alessandro Bastoni played for Inter Milan against Juventus.
“Adam was so aggressive in his running. He is so direct, had great pace and showed a lot of conviction in his play. Michael Obafemi also played a part by coming on for his U21 debut in the second half. He was running 70 yards with the ball and not many players can do that.”
Ireland lead their qualifying group with 10 points from the opening four matches. They hit the midway point of the campaign by facing an Icelandic side who bettered their victories over Luxembourg and Armenia.
“My assistant Jim Crawford has focused on Iceland,” Kenny revealed about handling the quick turnaround of a double-header. He has been doing all the homework on Iceland. They are a talented team because they beat Armenia 6-1 are doing well.
“As fourth seeds, we’ve now faced the first and second seeds in the campaign. Up next is the third seeds. We’ll have a better idea of how the group is shaping up next week as Sweden have to play Iceland (today) too.”
Only the group victor is guaranteed a place in the 2021 finals to be hosted by Hungary and Slovenia. The best runners-up across the nine pools joins them directly at the showpiece, with the others clashing in four play-offs to decide the final four spots.