There was a moment last weekend when Stephen Kenny was discussing who was and wasn’t available to him for the seniors and he cast his thoughts forward to who may receive a call when the World Cup qualifiers kick off next March.
The first cab off the rank was the name of Troy Parrott who, lest we forget, is still only 18 years of age and has played once for his country at the highest level. Add in his appearances at club level and that senior experience expands to just six run-outs.
That makes for a lot of expectation on a young and inexperienced pair of shoulders but the Dubliner has risen to every test so far and nowhere is that more obvious than in his contribution to the Republic of Ireland U21’s attempts to make the European Championships in 2022.
Parrott has played in just half of the eight games so far but he has four goals, three of them coming in ties against Sweden and the other being the only score in a 1-0 defeat of Armenia in Tallaght 14 months ago when Group 1 was still finding its feet.
“He’s a proven goalscorer,” said his U21 teammate Zack Elbouzedi. “If he does play and we give him a chance, he’s going to score. Every team wants to have that goalscorer. He just gives more confidence to the group. We have a lot of great players here, he’s just another quality player.”
The problem is match fitness. Injuries have bedevilled Parrott lately, postponing his competitive debut for Millwall, where he moved on loan from Tottenham Hotspur in the off-season, after hugely encouraging performances in a handful of friendlies.
His club boss Gary Rowett didn’t sound too happy with the prospects of the young star joining up with Ireland when this week came around and estimated yesterday that he had no more than three days’ light training done before reporting for international duties.
Those concerns have not fallen on deaf ears.
Ireland know that they will qualify for the Euros automatically if they win these last two games, against Iceland on Sunday and away to Luxembourg in midweek, but Jim Crawford has already intimated that Parrott will not be featuring for 90 minutes.
The question is, will he start or come on?
The current U21 boss was assistant to Stephen Kenny at this grade when Parrott bagged two of his goals away to Sweden after coming on as a second-half substitute so there is precedent for him making a belated impact and it may be needed against Iceland.
Ireland’s first setback in this group came in Reykjavik last year when they were unlucky in suffering a 1-0 loss on an artificial pitch and in a howling wind. The second reversal came last month when they lost 2-0 in Pisa to a side that was basically Italy’s U20s as a result of Covid issues.
The line is that they will be better this time around. That Italian loss was a first game together in eleven months and their first of any stripe since losing the likes of Caoimhin Kelleher, Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly and Dara O’Shea to the senior setup.
Parrott was absent then too.
That’s a lot of talent to lose in the middle of a campaign, even if there is an abundance of it floating in and around this particular age group, and Crawford has Jason Knight back for this one after waving him off to senior camp in the last international window.
Italy, Ireland, Iceland, and Sweden are all in the hunt for the two top spots as the final furlongs approach. Sunday’s opponents are strong and structured and they made Ireland sing to their tune last year. Change that frequency and Ireland are in business.