NORTHERN Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill must surely be keeping close tabs on the performances of Derry City’s in-form striker, David Parkhouse.
The 19 year-old’s recent goalscoring exploits have been nothing short of sensational and the variety of goals scored have been most impressive. In my opinion, O’Neill could do worse than introduce him to the senior international set-up and fast-track his development.
He’s a typical No. 9 - a rarity in the League of Ireland these days - and to see him hunt down Dundalk hitman, Pat Hoban for the Golden Boot this season in his first campaign in senior football has been fantastic.
Parkhouse has 10 goals in the league, just two behind Hoban and his bullet winning strike against Wexford to send Derry through to the FAI Cup second round on Friday night took his season’s tally to an incredible 17 goals in all competitions.
For a teenager that really is a special achievement as it stands but he’s on track to smash that tally with at least 12 games remaining having netted eight in his last four games!
Sheffield United’s decision to allow him to extend his stay for the entirety of the current SSE Airtricity League campaign has so far worked wonders for all parties involved.
And while his goals - particularly that wonder strike against Waterford in the 2-0 league win which is no doubt a contender for ‘Goal of the Season’ - will have raised his profile, it’s his temperament and professional attitude which has impressed me most.
He, of course, went on to score a further four goals against Waterford in the last week’s EA Sports Cup semi-final to single handedly send Derry into the first cup final of the season.
Waterford coach, Fran Rockett, likened him to England and Leicester City striker, Jamie Vardy after those performances, describing him as ‘an absolute tormentor’.
And his ability to pressurise the defence with his pace, high press and his strength to hold up the ball are also key elements of his game which make him a handful for even the most experienced of League of Ireland defenders.
Northern Ireland boss, O’Neill is no doubt already fully aware of his potential and Under-21 manager, Ian Baraclough will certainly be keeping the ex-Shamrock Rovers manager fully briefed on his progress.
It might be considered a little early to be putting him in the frame for a full international appearance but why not introduce him to the set-up?
O’Neill has shown he is willing to give youth a chance and has handed full international debuts to former Irish League stars like Gavin Whyte and Paul Smith, albeit once they had made the move to cross-Channel clubs.
O’Neill, like his predecessors, will continue to scour Scotland and the lower leagues in England looking for players to come into the international fold, but he could have a real gem right on his doorstep. Premiership newboys, Sheffield United highly rate the youngster and it will be interesting if they see the benefit of loaning him back to Derry for the 2020 season.
Former Derry City manager and now Republic of Ireland U21 supremo - and of course the future Ireland senior boss - Stephen Kenny, will certainly have no qualms about giving home based players a chance at the top level.
And if you look at how former Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill and current boss, Mick McCarthy were prepared to give ex Candy Stripe, Ronan Curtis a chance then there’s certainly hope for Parkhouse even at this early juncture of his development.
Curtis had already secured his move to League One outfit, Portsmouth before O’Neill handed him his international debut but it was his club form for Derry City and the Ireland U21s which brought him to the attention of the senior selectors.
And until Parkhouse makes his N. Ireland senior debut, O’Neill doesn’t need reminded that he could potentially follow a recent trend of North West based players and shift his allegiances to the south.
Derry boss, Declan Devine surely won’t want Parkhouse getting carried away or distracted from the job at hand though as the Candy Stripes look to finish the season strongly. But he doesn’t appear to be the type and looks like he’s keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.
I was chatting to the striker briefly as he left Brandywell following the slender FAI Cup win over Wexford and Friday and he’s delighted with his current form.
And while Devine has increased Parky’s goal target to 25 goals this season, he’s eager to beat his uncle, Stephen Parkhouse’s best senior goal tally of 22 in 36 games (including six penalties) during the 2003/04 season to earn the family bragging rights. Stephen for the record scored 35 in 81 total appearances for ’Stute!
Ex-City and Institute striker, Parkhouse, who won the Irish League title with Glentoran, had a similar eye for goal and he’s been a crucial figure in the teenager’s development so far.
Had he not opted to stay on Foyleside for the season, he would likely have been shipped out on loan to a lower tier English side and who’s to say he would’ve been given half the chances he’s had under Devine.
He’s grown in confidence and stature this season and will only get better. And of course he’s got the chance to end his first season in senior football by helping Derry qualify for Europe and potentially reach two cup finals.
Michael O’Neill has the likes of Conor Washington, Josh Magennis, Liam Boyce, Kyle Lafferty and Will Grigg currently to lead the line for his senior side but perhaps he should take an educated gamble on Derry City’s young hitman who continues to rise to the occasion.