Stephen Kenny relieved to notch first win as Ireland boss

Troy Parrott confident he can nail down his place in the team and keep scoring goals

It is difficult to gauge just how close Stephen Kenny’s reign as Republic of Ireland manager came to the precipice as he charted a route out of the Pyrenees.

Winning 4-1, in any language, is a decent return but there was 61 minutes of fear and anger diluting the brains of every diehard Irish football fan. Especially when the scoreboard at Estadi Nacional read 1-0.

As soon as Marc Vales headed a free ball past Gavin Bazunu, the Irish dugout needed to react. Sometimes doing nothing is the right decision. The winless boss eventually turned to Daryl Horgan for his crossing ability and that did reap its intended rewards.

The wonder was whether Kenny could retain any form of clarity as the realisation sunk in that his charges were about to top the loss to Luxembourg last March. Andorra taking a lead after 51 minutes would rattle the nerves of the most experienced surgeon.


“I am not going to lie to you I was disappointed to concede the goal,” said Kenny, with a contender for understatement of the year. “You just have to focus on the game very quickly. Not panic into making too many changes or too many substitutions too quickly.

“I am not saying I have all the answers but that was my thought process.”

So he waited, almost frozen in those excruciating 10 minutes, his face a portrait of anguish.


“We needed a natural winger definitely at that period. Daryl has not been playing for Wycombe since March so I felt he would be more effective as the game opened up.

“He did terrifically well when he came on.”

But that is not what saved Ireland from a cataclysmic result. Let the record show that Troy Parrott bagged his brace of goals before Horgan and Adam Idah entered the fray.

“The players showed a degree of composure themselves - nothing to do with me - to get back into the game,” Kenny happily conceded.

Ever since word spread that a young lad from the Five Lamps area of Dublin’s north inner city, where the magical touches of Wes Hoolahan and Jack Byrne were honed, was signing for Tottenham Hotspur it felt like the wait for a successor to Robbie Keane would soon be over.

Such hopes receded this season when Parrott was loaned out by Spurs to Millwall, but Kenny had enough evidence from an under-21s game in Sweden two years ago, when Parrott netted two goals, to keep faith in the teenager.

“Troy has not had his best season but you can see his character. That ability to elevate.

“It hasn’t been perfect for him. He still got learning and improving to do when we play against better opposition than we did today, but it just shows mentally he has the capacity to do that when it was going against us. For one so young that was encouraging.”

Parrott literally snatched hold of his fifth cap with goals so contrasting that he can only be described as a natural finisher.

“A lot of people said ‘why is he is the squad, he should be with the 21s.’ And that he hadn’t justified it.

“I think we needed to have a goal threat. We knew we would have a degree of play in wide areas and he is a very high 10 as opposed to other players. He becomes a second striker at times, he gets in the box and links the play and he has the capacity to score goals. I just felt it would give us an extra impetus.

“Also, we want to have a bit of conviction. Just because we are on a bad run we won’t say ‘we will go away from what we are doing.’ Or scrap it because we are under pressure.’”

Parked bus

Kenny is justified in spinning this result into an Ireland squad on the rise. How else should he explain the way his players coped so poorly with a parked bus on the edge of Andorra’s box?

But this night was all about Parrott accelerating his destiny. When he was informed that Keane bagged his first goal for Ireland on cap number five he sounded almost disappointed that someone with a total of 68 was stealing his thunder.

“He was an unbelievable striker and to reach the level of goals he had would be a dream come true. It’s good to get off the mark, though.”

Naturally, Parrott is asked to completely lose the run of himself (are you the man to lead the attack?).

“When you say it like that it’s because I’m 19 and it maybe would surprise a few people,” Parrott replied without any chinks in his self-confidence. “I wouldn’t say lead the attack, I’m just happy to be in the team, to be fair, to be in the squad even.

“To score two goals gives me massive confidence and the win gives the whole team confidence, so I’m really happy.”

That will do.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent