Is it too early to get excited by Troy Parrott?
Is it too early to get excited by Troy Parrott?
If you have to ask the question it most likely means that it probably is, but nevertheless, Parrott already looks like one of Irish football's most exciting prospects in some time and at what point do we allow ourselves to believe that he can become the player that we're all hoping that he can be?
Given how the careers of some of Ireland's previous underage stars developed the answer realistically won't be revealed this decade, but, by the same token, the Ireland U17 forward is currently tied for the leading goalscorer at the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and that's hard to ignore.
Parrott looks like a player that has been blessed with genuine guile, skill, ability and touch, which, in an Irish football context, invariably means that one day he will be the type of player that will be benched for away games and will become a 78-year-old Eamon Dunphy's go-to calling card when he's asked by Darragh Maloney 'what's wrong with Ireland's attack' during RTE's coverage of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Irish football fans have become so desperate for anyone with genuine technical quality to breakthrough to the senior side that we breathe a sigh of relief when Declan Rice declares for the national team and we immediately question why Michael Obafemi isn't fast-tracked into the senior squad when he makes a guest appearance off the bench for an injury-hit Southampton.
We've become so accustomed to watching Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick and Daryl Muphy over the course of this decade that the memories of sides with Roy Keane, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane begin to fade further and further away into the distance.
It's unfair to place such expectations on Parrott at this stage of his underage career but he's already shown that he has the type of ability that Irish football has been lacking, with the exception of Wes Hoolahan, during the Martin O'Neill era.
If the 5-1 humiliation to Denmark taught us anything other than it's not a great idea to suddenly switch to a diamond formation in the final match of a World Cup qualifying campaign, it's that Ireland simply did not have a player on a level that was remotely close to Christian Eriksen.
For the record, Denmark didn't either, but Eriksen's hat-trick on that sobering night last November underlined just how limited Ireland's brand of football can be.
Of course, signs of Ireland's limitations were there from the very first game of the World Cup qualifying campaign against Serbia, if not long before that unfaithful night in Belgrade, but when a 35-year-old Championship midfielder was by some distance Ireland's best creative player it served to only highlight the desperate need to fill that void once Hoolahan finally called time on his international career.
Maybe Parrott one day occupies a role in an Irish side where players turn to him to be the difference maker but we once thought Jack Byrne and Robbie Brady would do the same in international football.
Brady was a star in underage football for Ireland and holds the record for most goals at U21 level. He was primarily used on the wing and as an attacking midfielder before moving to left-back, centre midfield and occasionally on the wing as a senior international.
Similarly, Byrne was hailed by former Manchester City youth coach Patrick Vieira as one of the club's most exciting prospects following a UEFA Youth League campaign where he scored six goals in a team that featured future City striker Kelechi Iheanacho.
Former Ireland U21 manager Noel King said that Byrne had 'a chance to be a top player' while he had him at underage level, and maybe he still does, but you figure he'll need to move on from Oldham Athletic and League Two next season if he's going to fulfill the potential that had the likes of Vieira once contrasting the differences between him and the likes of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Parrott should be placed under no such constraints or be burdened by no such comparisons to established internationals, but he has shown promise and ability, and some balls too.
He scored a panenka penalty for Spurs against Juventus.
Vs juventus ✌️ pic.twitter.com/Q6HQ1Cc1Wx
— Troy Parrott (@troyparrott9) April 3, 2018
In an age where the senior team are winning World Cup qualifiers with two shots on target and 28% possession, it's refreshing and encouraging to see a player like Parrott come through the underage ranks and play with such confidence and expression that it gives you hope that Irish football can once again be more than Daryl Murphy barreling into defenders or Shane Duffy being the country's primary goal threat from the centre of defence.
As seen with Brady, Byrne, Conor Clifford and countless others, underage form doesn't always carry over into the senior international side but maybe it does with Parrott. Maybe he's the next prospect that breaks through and one day becomes the player that Ireland desperately need.
It's far too early to tell if that will be the case but is it too early to get excited? Not when he's doing this on a regular basis.