Barring any training ground mishaps, two boys in green can be expected to dominate attention in tomorrow night’s friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva.
At 27, Robbie Brady is the old kid on the block making a welcome return to the fold while, ten years his junior, fellow Dubliner Troy Parrott is set to experience his first senior outing for his country.
Brady had only just turned 16 when he left St Kevin’s Boys for Manchester United in 2008 and, from what he has seen so far of Parrott’s progress at Spurs, reckons the new kid on the block is better equipped to deal with all the challenges of life at a big club than he was himself back in the day.
“When I was younger I didn’t have the drive it took to force myself into a Manchester United first team,” Brady admits. “I was sort of thrown in there, I was young, away from everyone, I was going back to Dublin all the time.
“It’s a massive thing getting moved up and away at some young age. In hindsight, I would have done some things differently. I was a young lad from Dublin, I’d just signed for Man United. I was on top of the world. Anything anyone said to me I was taking it in my stride.
“Not that I thought I’d made it, by any means. When you go to a club of such stature, you’re a drop in the ocean. When you’re signing, you may have a good name about yourself here but when you go over there you have to prove yourself and do all things right, which I didn’t do, half the time.
“Still I had enough ability, workrate, and drive so that I was given the chance at Hull and I managed to play. And at 19, 20, I’m thinking, ‘I’ve given myself a chance here and I have to keep going’.”
Reminded of the story that he once stood aside to allow Ronaldo skip the queue in the United canteen — for which lack of self-assertion, the teenager supposedly got a blast of the hair-dryer from Alex Ferguson — Brady smiles and says: “All stories grow arms and legs…”
But he does admit to “a little bit of naivety” on his part in those early years, noting that some of the other lads in the youth set-up at Old Trafford “would have been around clubs like Man United and were getting to go in and train from seven, eight, nine years of age, having a feel for it and knowing what has to be done. It probably took me a couple of years to get all that onboard.”
Already, Brady says he senses that Parrott is considerably more clued-in. “Definitely. No one pushes on as quick as he does without going in and doing things right. He seems to have got his head down, training well, pushing on great, and progressing great. It’s a great thing for Ireland to see someone so young going and playing.
“Please God he can get more football. He seems to have the backing of [Tottenham boss Mauricio] Pochettino to have played in those games pre-season at such a young age. I’d say just keep doing what he’s doing ad stick at it because it’s paying off for him so far and things can only get better for him.”
And for the comparative veteran seeing such a fresh face coming into camp — does it feel like a changing of the guard? “It’s mad because we haven’t been blessed with youth in the squad until the big change,” he says.
“Him coming in is brilliant — the stature of him for 17! You’re training with him this week and he’s clever, he’s got an eye for a pass, an eye for a goal, a big frame. He’s a confident young lad, he didn’t train like he was nervous on his first day. He was fine. It didn’t seem to faze him at all. We’ll help him if he needs anything. But he doesn’t seem to need anything at the minute, he seems ready to crack on and play football.”
As indeed does Brady, after a couple of injury-blighted years and that recent shortage of first-team game time at Burnley which makes tomorrow’s match an important one if he is to convince Mick McCarthy that
— as the player himself insists —
he is ready to hit the ground running against Denmark next Monday. “I’m excited,” he says. “It’s been about game time and he (McCarthy) said it from the start. But when the squads were being announced and (I wasn’t included) it was very disappointing and it was a hard one to take. But I have got my head down and have been training well for the last few weeks. I’ve also managed to get some more game time.
“So this is a good opportunity. I’m looking forward to Thursday to show what I’m about and show that I should be here. And hopefully I will do enough to get minutes on Monday.”