Sunday 16 June 2019

'I can’t stop here' - Irish youngster makes his Premier League debut...and now he wants more

Michael Obafemi in action for Southampton. Photo: REUTERS
Michael Obafemi in action for Southampton. Photo: REUTERS

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Irish teenager Michael Obafemi says he was able to shrug off the nerves and impress on his Premier League debut for Southampton.

The Dublin-born striker, who only made his debut for the Republic of Ireland U19s in their Euro qualifying campaign last October, made history when he came off the bench for the Saints in their 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham.

At 17, Obafemi is the youngest Irish player to feature in the Premier League, one of only a handful of Irish-born players to play in the English top flight whilst in their teens and he is also the second-youngest debutant for the Saints after Luke Shaw.

Obafemi had some touches and even had a chance to win the game for the Saints, so was on a high after his debut and says he was not held back by nerves after an unexpected promotion from the Saints’ underage side, which features Obafemi’s compatriots Will Smallbone, Jonathan Afloabi, Cameron Ledwidge, Seán Brennan, Aaron O’Driscoll and Thomas O’Connor.

“I can’t stop here, this is just the start of what I hope is my career,” he said after the 1-1 draw.

“I was nervous but the welcome from the supporters was brilliant and the senior guys told me to just relax and prove myself. I want to move on from here and keep working hard.

“I am very thankful to all the staff and club for helping to make this happen. I came in on Saturday thinking that I would be playing for the U18s. The manager stopped me and said that I would be training instead and would maybe be in the first-team squad; it was confirmed later on in the afternoon,” added Obamemi, who knows he scuffed his chance to score.

“When the chance came, I should have used my left foot but I hope I will get another opportunity to prove I can make it at this level.”

Tottenham missed the chance to move into the top four as Harry Kane scored his 99th league goal after Davinson Sanchez had given Southampton a surprise first-half lead by turning the ball into his own net.


WHO? Michael Obafemi.

AGE: 17.

BORN: In Dublin but family moved to England.

PLAYED FOR: Ryan FC, Watford and Orient before move to Southampton.

FIRST IRELAND CALL-UP: FU18 squad, April 2017.

IRELAND DEBUT: Makes his Republic of Ireland debut in U19 Euro qualifier, October 2017.

PREMIER LEAGUE DEBUT: Makes Premier League debut for Southampton, January 21 2018.

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