Mick McCarthy will turn back the clock on Thursday evening when he hands teenage striker Troy Parrott a senior debut for the Republic of Ireland against New Zealand.
In March 1998, it was McCarthy who turned to a then 17-year-old Robbie Keane against the Czech Republic in Olomouc, sparking an international career which eventually amounted to 146 appearances and 68 goals, both national records.
That would be a tall order for Tottenham’s Parrott, who is also 17, to replicate, but McCarthy has no qualms about giving him his chance after a series of sizzling displays for the Under-21s. Asked if it takes a special player to be pitched into the heat of international battle at such a tender age, the Ireland boss said:
“It doesn’t take a special kind to be pitched in – it takes a special kind when they are pitched in to thrive and make a good impression.
“I hope that’s the case with Troy. Robbie did it instantly, and continued to do it for how many years, caps and goals?” Keane’s presence in the camp as one of McCarthy’s assistants along with Terry Connor may help to smooth Parrott’s way as he prepares to step on to the big stage having made just a single senior appearance for his club – against Carlisle in the Carabao Cup in September – to date.
McCarthy said: “Robbie is a help to all the strikers, and he was working with some of them yesterday. He was working with Troy yesterday.
“Any information he can give – in terms of the movement, he was one of the best, Robbie. His movement to get himself chances…
“He can help them in terms of finishing because you can give them tips – TC is fantastic at that – but just the all-round play of a striker… because Robbie has been one of the best and if he can’t learn from him, he is not going to learn from anybody.”
Parrott has been propelled into the senior set-up by a return of three goals in as many appearances for the Under-21s in their ongoing European Championship qualifying campaign.
And McCarthy knows an extension of that form against the All Whites would spark a clamour for him to be involved in Monday night’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark.
Asked what would happen if Parrott scored two goals, he said: “I hope he scores two goals and then I’ll deal with it.
“It’s hypothetical, isn’t it, and I don’t really talk hypothetically. Let’s hope he does it, let’s hope he gets the goals, let’s hope he plays really well.
Parrott, like 19-year-old defender Lee O’Connor, who will also make his debut, while midfielder Jack Byrne will start for his country for the first time, has one major hurdle to overcome even before he steps on to the pitch at the Aviva Stadium. McCarthy said:
“I’ll see what he sings like tonight as well at dinner. He’s got his song to sing. He’s making his debut, isn’t he?
“What did he sing the last time? One Direction he did last time [with the Under-15s]. He’s promised us he’s not going to do that, anyway.”
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