It’s actually not all about the boy tonight but the build-up to Troy Parrott’s senior debut against New Zealand can certainly make it seem that way.
That’s understandable, when you consider that the Spurs starlet will, at just 17, become the third youngest senior debutant for Ireland, following in the footsteps of Jimmy Holmes and Robbie Keane.
But it’s against the backdrop of Ireland’s long quest to find a goal-scoring successor to the one and only Keano that Parrott’s fast-track elevation is exciting most interest.
“I don’t see Troy coming in and suddenly answering all those problems,” Mick McCarthy is quick to point out. “Wouldn’t it be lovely if he did? It wouldn’t be wrong of me to think it or hope it but to suggest it is a completely different thing. Let’s see how he does.
“We’re playing New Zealand in a friendly and it’s a great opportunity for him prior to our biggest game. I’ve been just asked the question: ‘What happens if he scores two goals?’ There’ll be a big clamour for him to play against Denmark. Well, I hope he does score two goals and he plays brilliantly and then I’ve a clamour in my own head that he should be part of that squad. We haven’t scored that many goals, have we? And he’s a goalscorer.”
McCarthy says that, watching training this week, he has already been impressed by some of Parrott’s attributes. “His movement, certainly his touch, and he did something yesterday when a ball came into him. He twisted — he twisted me inside out watching him — he got it and turned and got his shot off. He looks very good technically.”
To the observation that the strapping Dubliner doesn’t look like a 17-year-old, the manager chuckles “I was going to say: ‘What does a 17-year-old look like?’ I’d a ‘tasche and a beard when I was 17, so I don’t know. He’s a big lad. For a 17-year-old, he’s not coming here looking like a skinny kid, but then Robbie did. Robbie was a skinny kid at 17.
“But Robbie was just something special. Sometimes they come along. Sometimes they come along and they show you a little bit of something and you’ll go ‘that’s alright’ but then they do nothing else. But Robbie just fitted in and I think he just believed that he fitted in. I’ve never asked him that question but you could see that in the way he played and the way he trained.”
The Keane-Parrott comparisons might be seductive but McCarthy is at pains to note that, as yet, we’re hardly talking like for like.
“Can I say something: Robbie Keane was playing in the Wolves’ team at 17, playing competitive football in a first team environment. And there is a huge difference, a huge, huge difference. They are all here to get a chance to play (against Denmark). And Troy is here for that reason. But would I compare this New Zeland game to the Denmark game? No, I wouldn’t.
“But I said that it’s up to him to play to his full potential. I’m not going to say that it’s fair on him because I don’t think it is likely. If he’d played from August 5, when the season started, and played Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday he would be able to play to his full potential. He will play as well as he can and run as hard as he can but if he hasn’t played for two or three weeks, it’s impossible for him to be absolutely match sharp and as fit as he can be. You get battle hardened when you’re playing.
“But it doesn’t mean to say that if a chance dropped to him in a really important game that he might not be able to score it. We need to score against Denmark We’ve got to score a goal, got to score to win the game. It might be somebody of his ilk gets that chance and puts it away, who knows?’”
But when the subject turns to Robbie Brady, and his own lack of game time after a long spell out with injury, McCarthy makes an observation about tonight’s friendly which could equally apply to Parrott.
”It’s nowhere near the Denmark game,” he stresses again. “I won’t be kidded by somebody playing well in this game that all of a sudden they should automatically play in the Denmark game.”
So, irrespective of what happens this evening, would he consider it a risk to play Robbie Brady against the Danes?
“In terms of ability, not a risk. In terms of the intensity that that game will probably have – he hasn’t played many games like that. He played, what, 75 minutes in one of the games for Burnley and he’s had bits and pieces in all the others. That doesn’t always prepare you that well for playing in a game like the Denmark game will be. When the game settles down? When the game opens up? Aaron Connolly’s best 15 minutes for us were against Georgia when he comes on and the game’s opened up and he gets two chances. We didn’t play well in Switzerland but Aaron didn’t really have anything in that game at all. Playing against a much better side, I know, but towards the end of games they certainly do open up and there are chances.”
At least tonight’s game will help McCarthy arrive at a final decision on the Burnley midfielder.
“Ninety minutes this evening would make it difficult for him to play on Monday considering the recovery time,” he says. “So if you see me taking him off, he might have a chance of starting.”
We already knew that Parrott, his fellow debutant Lee O’Connor, Jack Byrne and Ciaran Clark would all start against New Zealand, and yesterday evening, when McCarthy took the unusual step of naming his side a day before the game, came the expected confirmation Robbie Brady too will be in the starting line-up. The full team is: Kieran O’Hara; Lee O’Connor, Kevin Long, Ciaran Clark, Derrick Williams; Josh Cullen, Alan Browne; Robbie Brady, Jack Byrne, Sean Maguire; Troy Parrott. So that much we know, early doors - with Browne’s inclusion suggesting that his fellow Corkman Conor Hourihane is in line for a recall against the Danes — but it will only be at the end of the 90 minutes tonight that we will have a better picture of the extent to which this warmer-upper could impact on Monday’s main event.