Tottenham Hotspur striker Troy Parrott is one of five players to be brought into the Irish Under-21 squad for the first time as Stephen Kenny named a young group for the his side's opening European Championship qualifier against Luxembourg in Tallaght on March 25th.
The teenager, who played a starring role for the Irish Under-17s at last year's European Championships and has made strong progress at club level, has been included by Kenny along with the likes of Manchester City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, Brighton's Adam Idah, Manchester United's Lee O'Connor and Conor Coventry of West Ham, all of whom are still eligible to compete at younger age levels.
“Troy has come through the system with Ireland and has done very well at Tottenham,” said Kenny as he named his first full squad since taking on the Under-21 job late last year.
“He has been in the Under-17s very recently so this will be a step up for him but we think that he is ready for it and we are happy to promote players from within the ranks. He has a toe injury, though, so there is a doubt about his availability as things stand; we’ll just have to see how it goes between now and the 24th.”
Parrott has done exceptionally well for the Tottenham Under-23s over the last year or so but Kenny admits that the call on whether he can cope with competitive football at this particular level comes down to something of a gut call on the part of the association’s coaches.
“It’s difficult to compare different leagues, whether it’s League Two or the SPL, the league here or the Under-23s (in England). All you can go on is a player’s individual ability and the way he adapts to his environment.”
Kenny has named eight players from the Airtricity League with Darragh Leahy, Trevor Clarke and Zach Elbouzedi amongst those included. The Dubliner said there had been some difficult decisions to be made when it came to deciding which players from the squad of locally based players he had previously assembled to retain but suggested that those omitted might well still feature over the course of the coming year.
“There will be 11 Under-21 games this year, a minimum of 11; that’s unprecedented so anyone who hasn’t been selected on this occasion will still be monitored,” he said. “In many cases it wasn’t players didn’t do well, it was that we were strong in the particular position and the balance and blend of the squad was important but it is only a squad for this one game and there will be a lot of flexibility over the course of the year as we go into the Toulon Tournament and the remaining qualifying games.”
Even as it is, though, the call ups have been having an impact with the FAI announcing that the games on Friday week between Dundalk and Bohemians as well as UCD and Cork City and the clash of Sligo Rovers and Waterford have been postponed while St Patrick’s Athletic against Derry City had already gone.
Ryan Nolan is one of a number of players to have been named on standby for the game with Kenny suggesting that he had lost out on this occasion due to the strong form of Dara O'Shea, currently on loan from West Brom to Exeter City where he has, the manager suggested, been doing exceptionally well.
Italy, Sweden, Iceland and Armenia are the other teams in Ireland’s qualification group with only the top side guaranteed a place at the finals in Hungary and Slovakia during the summer of 2021. The squad will gather in Dublin to train for the first time on Monday.
Ireland U-21 Squad: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City); Darragh Leahy (Bohemians), Dara O'Shea (Exeter City, on loan from West Bromwich Albion), Barry Cotter (Ipswich Town), Corey Ndaba (Ipswich Town), Conor Masterson (Liverpool), Lee O'Connor (Manchester United), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Liam Scales (UCD AFC); Jayson Molumby (Brighton and Hove Albion), Jake Doyle Hayes (Cambridge United, on loan from Aston Villa), Connor Ronan (FC DAC 1904, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jamie Lennon (St. Patrick's Athletic), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Dan Mandroiu (Bohemians); Adam Idah (Norwich City), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Neil Farrugia (UCD AFC), Zach Elbouzedi (Waterford), Michael O'Connor (Linfield), Simon Power (FC Dordrecht, on loan from Norwich City), Aaron Drinan (Waterford, on loan from Ipswich Town).