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Stephen Kenny has backed Troy Parrott to have a bright future for the Republic of Ireland after the teenager scored twice to help secure his first win as manager.
Ireland were staring further humiliation in the face when the 19-year-old Tottenham striker scored twice – his first senior international goals – inside three minutes to haul them back from a 1-0 deficit in Andorra and rekindle memories of his exploits at under-21 level.
Late strikes from Jason Knight and substitute Daryl Horgan ultimately secured a 4-1 victory at the Estadi Nacional, but it was Parrott’s intervention which changed the game.
Asked about the frontman, who spent the second half of last season on loan a League One Ipswich, Kenny said: “There is a bit of pressure when you concede a goal like that when you are in a place like that and not been on a good run. There is an element of pressure, of course.
“Troy has not had his best season, but he showed a lot of character. That is sort of what I felt when I was under-21 manager away to a very good Sweden team.
“Troy came into that game with it in the melting pot and got two goals in a match of that calibre. 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.”
It was Parrott’s fifth appearance for the senior team, the same stage at which record goalscorer Robbie Keane claimed the first of his 68 for his country, although Parrott was not allowing himself to be carried away by the comparison.
He said: “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.
“It feels amazing, to be fair, the stuff you dream of when you’re growing up. The most important thing is the win, though, it’s good to get that.”
After a drab first half, Ireland suffered a rude awakening when Marc Vales headed the home side into a 52nd-minute lead.
Their response, however, was concerted as Parrott levelled with an angled shot six minutes later and then powered a header past fellow 19-year-old Iker Alvarez in the Andorra goal.
Knight and Horgan both struck inside the final six minutes, also for the first time for their country, to end Kenny’s wait for a win at the 12th attempt.
Asked if his overriding emotion on the final whistle was relief, the manager, who will send out his team against Euro 2020-bound Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday, said: “Well, I’m not sure.
“We’re pleased to get our first win and I think long overdue, of course. Confidence is an important thing in football and we created a lot of chances then and took four of them, some very good goals.
“Listen, we understand it’s a match that the expectation is that you win it, so we’re not patting ourselves on the back. We’re just saying the players responded well from going a goal down in the second half, which they did, so credit to them.”