Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy has declined to raid the Under-21s as he prepares to test the depth of his squad in Tuesday night’s friendly clash with Bulgaria.
McCarthy, who fast-tracked the likes of Robbie Keane and Damien Duff into the senior set-up during his first spell in charge of the national team, was at Tallaght Stadium on Friday to see the Under-21s turn in an accomplished display in a European Championship qualifying victory over Armenia.
However, despite being hugely impressed by central defenders Dara O’Shea and Conor Masterson, as well as skipper Jayson Molumby and Brighton frontman Aaron Connolly in a game which was won by 17-year-old Tottenham striker Troy Parrott’s debut goal, he will not dismantle Stephen Kenny’s squad ahead of their qualifier in Sweden.
McCarthy, who confirmed he will make changes against the Bulgarians, said: “Have they got a qualifier tomorrow? Then why on earth would I call them in? I just think that would be wrong of me. The 21s want to qualify for a competition.
“I was extremely impressed, certainly by Connolly – I thought he was the pick of the bunch – Molumby as well. Having a soft spot for centre-backs, I liked the both of them. They were both competitive and both can play, both can pass the ball.
“But certainly Connolly, he was the one that caught the eye. Connolly and Molumby, I thought, were excellent.”
Asked if it is the role of the Under-21s to produce senior players, McCarthy added: “Yes, and strangely enough, we might qualify for the Euros and they might all be travelling or have been playing here.
“I’m not sure that if I play them in a friendly against Bulgaria, it will tell me that they can compete in a game against Georgia away or Switzerland away or Denmark at home.
“It’s a competitive game against Sweden and I’m sure I’ll learn more from that than I would in a friendly.”
McCarthy will instead use the game to have a look at some of those squad members of whom he has seen little during the opening five games of his reign, all of which have been qualifiers.
Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers, Sheffield United defender John Egan, Charlton midfielder Josh Cullen and Ipswich midfielder Alan Judge are among those who could benefit, while Scott Hogan and the uncapped James Collins are the only two specialist strikers remaining in the squad.
Ireland will go into the game having received a boost to their Euro 2020 qualifying hopes when, three days after they hit back to draw 1-1 with Switzerland in Dublin, Group D rivals Denmark could only draw in Georgia, the venue for the Republic’s next competitive outing in October.
However, McCarthy insisted that will not affect his approach in Tbilisi, where he confirmed Matt Doherty is an option to replace suspended left-back Enda Stevens.
He said: “I think it just re-emphasises what a good side Georgia are as well and what a tough game we’ve got ahead of us. They’re a good side – but we’re going to go and try to win there, of course.”
In the meantime, McCarthy will look for more of the same from a much-changed side against a Bulgarian outfit beaten 4-0 by England on Saturday.
He said: “They’ll pose a threat – they’ve just had a competitive game like we have. Whether they make changes, I don’t know.
“I will be and I’m just looking for that same competitive edge that the lads who have been playing in the last four, five games have shown us.”
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