Troy Parrott’s double saves Ireland’s blushes in Andorra

Marc Vales had given the home side a shock lead but Kenny notches up his first win

Republic of Ireland’s Troy Parrott celebrates scoring their second goal as manager Stephen Kenny looks on during the friendly against Andorra. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

Republic of Ireland’s Troy Parrott celebrates scoring their second goal as manager Stephen Kenny looks on during the friendly against Andorra. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

 

Andorra 1 Republic of Ireland 4

Troy Parrott ended 10 of the loneliest minutes Stephen Kenny is ever likely to experience in his life as a football manager.

Two goals from the Spurs striker in the space of three minutes reversed what was rapidly turning into the result of no return for Kenny.

Trailing 1-0 after Marc Vales’ free header, suddenly, from the depths of misery, Parrott offered a solution to the increasingly worrying search for a prolific Irish goal scorer. The 19-year-old was not expected to come through this summer but the 10 jersey appears to have a new resident.

“Once I got the ball and seen the space in front of me I just wanted to go,” said Parrott after collecting the man of the match crystal. “When the ball hit back of the net I was so relieved and I guess it changed the way the game was going.”

It changed more than that.

Andorra celebrate after Marc Vales broke the deadlock. Photo: Eric Alonso/Getty Images
Andorra celebrate after Marc Vales broke the deadlock. Photo: Eric Alonso/Getty Images

In a kinder world, Vales would be complimented for ghosting into the Ireland box to head home his goal six minutes after half-time. In reality, James McClean lost the centre half, who earns a living in the second tier of Norwegian football, perhaps convinced the timing of the run would be offside.

It wasn’t and Andorra, the tiny principality in the Pyrenees, were ahead. They so easily could have gone 2-0 up when careless passing by Matt Doherty and Conor Hourihan offered Ricardo Fernandez a clean shot that needed John Egan’s back to deflect it for a corner.

As Irish players barked at each other, Kenny looked haunted on the sideline. His descent into Dante’s Inferno was delayed by Parrott’s diagonal run into the box before a neat finish to the bottom corner.

Seconds later the teenager from Dublin’s north inner city passed on a second finish to turn provider for Ronan Curtis but the Portsmouth forward somehow missed the target from point blank range.

Parrott could have been spinning away to celebrate a hat-trick when he headed a second from a delicate Hourihane delivery to make it 2-1.

Kenny reacted by replacing the other two front men, Curtis and James Collins, with Adam Idah and Daryl Horgan. The changes worked as Jason Knight tapped in an in-swinger from Horgan before returning the favour so Horgan could make it 4-1 from another bullet header.

What came before the flood of goals cannot be ignored. Twenty one minutes into the 12th match of the Kenny’s tenure as Republic of Ireland manager, Josh Cullen looked up from his deep lying midfield slot before launching an utterly useless ball that ran out of steam 70 metres down field at the feet of Iker Álvarez.

The teenage goalkeeper, who plays for Villarreal ‘C’ team, could not believe how comfortable his second cap had started.

Disciplined pressing by this eager Andorra side had Kenny’s men in all sorts of bother.

Josh Cullen battles with Alexandre Martínez Palau. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho
Josh Cullen battles with Alexandre Martínez Palau. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

On Wednesday the manager spoke about his midfielders needing to get their heads up to make “quicker and earlier” deliveries into the three strikers he selected for what can never be described as an international cauldron.

Cullen’s smooth passing season in Anderlecht was held up as the example others must replicate.

But the lack of invention in the first stanza was a collective achievement. And when Cullen ballooned another shot well wide of the mark on 32 minutes the management would be forgiven for feeling that cold chill of panic.

The 25-year-old was not alone in his inaccuracy but come the half hour mark Ireland did increase the tempo and a decent chance seemed inevitable. Sure enough, Knight, selected on the right of a 4-4-2 system, whipped a cross to the back post for Collins. All the Cardiff City striker ended up with was a gob full of those black rubber pellets in the synthetic surface.

“I don’t know how it is our first win,” said Kenny afterwards. “I can’t believe we didn’t win some of the games we have played.”

Maybe so, but the fact remains that it needed a teenager, struggling for first team football in England, to grab this game by the scruff of the neck and save plenty of people’s blushes.

Andorra: Iker (Pires 76); San Nicolás (De Pablos 72), Vales, Llovera, Cervós; Clemente (Martinez 59), Rebés (Garcia 72), Viera (capt), Martínez (Lima 76); Aláez, Fernandez.

Republic of Ireland: Bazunu; Doherty, Egan (capt), O’Shea (Duffy 85), McClean (Manning 85); Knight, Hourihane (Arter 85), Cullen, Curtis (Horgan 65); Collins (Idah 65), Parrott (McGrath 82).

Referee: Xavier Estruda (Spain).

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