Unlocking the English Third Division Defense is food and drink for the likes of Will Keane.
he step onto the international stage is much more difficult, as the Wigan Athletic man found against Lithuania, where his first international cap ended after just an hour.
The 29-year-old was called ashore by Stephen Kenny on one of those nights when Keane and Chiedozie Ogbene could have played for a few hours and not found the net; Instead, that burden fell to another League One player, Troy Parrott.
Ogbene, a player whom the Dublin crowd hugged warmly to his chest, was so unlucky with the match officials that the man with the whistle would probably only have said ‘offside’ if he shook hands with the Belgian referee.
And meanwhile the Lithuanian defenders, players who aren’t even a household name in their own country where basketball gets more attentiondid their job well and showed a shrewd awareness of the international game, evading the Irish attack until finally Parrott broke their stubborn resistance deep in stoppage time.
The men from clubs like Panevėžys, FC UTA Arad and Kauno Žalgiris never failed to frustrate an Irish side with Premier League ambitions but League One standards. They absorbed the pressure, used the offside rule diligently, protected their keeper and threw down a defensive blanket that Ireland midfield couldn’t find a hole in until Parrott’s persistence and class broke them.
Parrott, who was approached by assistant Keith Andrews ahead of that game, has broken the pecking order with Irelandbut on that evidence, with that late goal that saved Kenny the blush of another goalless home game, he rose in the world.
Only recently turned 20, he’s not the Messiah, not yet, but he has shown a keenness lacking in those who started. And if this was Keane’s big audition, the role will go to someone else, not him. The genuine hope is that next season Keane and Ogbene will play at a higher level than League One, both clubs on course for automatic promotion. And even if Rotherham does move up, there’s no guarantee Oebene will still be around as his stock is high now and has the potential for an even higher valuation in the transfer market when the summer window arrives. But the beady eyes of the scouts will be little convinced of the duo against Lithuania, a night of deep frustration for the attacking players, Stephen Kenny and the paying crowd.
And for Ogbene, who has denied two goals for offside.
Lithuania is the seventh worst national team in Europe and clearly lacks excellence. Their back four consisted of three players from the domestic league and a central defender from the second German league. But the Nuremberg man, the gritty Benas Satkus, undoubtedly won his personal battle with Keane, the forward, who was unable to land a shot on goal before being replaced by Parrott with half an hour to go.
The sub did more than play its part, a nice move by the MK Dons player who set up James McClean to set up another Ogbene goal for offside and an injury-time shot that was saved, and then that finish.
Goals are hard to come by in international football…sometimes. Norway found a way last night, beating a very tame challenge from an Armenian side who will be among Ireland’s opponents in the Nations League in June. Erling Haaland ended the Armenian resistance after just 24 minutes as Norway blasted home nine goals.
The Dublin crowd prayed for just one. They got four, all offside, and no moans about any of those calls from the referee. The Lithuanian goalkeeper, who earns his living in Israel, was not the most overworked man in Dublin, while Ireland’s possession of the ball amounts to few threats.
Famine ravaged Kenny in his first year as a ruler, and the Republic simply couldn’t find the web.
Things eventually eased but most of the burden fell on the shoulders of defenders like Shane Duffy and John Egan. It wasn’t until last year that Parrott in Andorra and then Callum Robinson and Ogbene shared the duties for the attacking players to deliver.
When Lithuania last visited Dublin, they had regained their independence, freed from the shackles of the Soviet Union, for just six years.
They were on the rise then, stagnating with the Republic after a weak 0-0 draw in Dublin and a very tense 2-1 win for Ireland in Vilnius. In that campaign for the 1998 World Cup, Ireland made the play-offs just ahead of Lithuania, finishing by a point, and it would take Mick McCarthy a third season to qualify.
McCarthy survived a scare at home against a modest Lithuania, however, Kenny came – almost – to the same side at home.
The man named Parrott spread his wings and showed his class, but for others, like Keane, it was a harsh lesson in the realities of international football.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/international-soccer/no-keane-edge-a-worry-for-stephen-kenny-as-troy-parrott-moves-up-pecking-order-in-late-cameo-41501362.html No Keane worries Stephen Kenny as Troy Parrott moves up the pecking order in a late cameo