Sunday 18 August 2019

'I didn't really pay attention to Declan's situation - I knew myself that I would play for Ireland' - Michael Obafemi


Michael Obafemi
Michael Obafemi

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Southampton teenager Michael Obafemi says there was never any question of him 'doing a Declan' and turning his back on a career with Ireland.

And the Dublin-born forward has faith in the potential of young forwards like himself and Troy Parrott to solve Ireland's long-standing problems up front.

The 18-year-old is sidelined at the moment after the season-ending hamstring injury he picked up at training in February, just after he'd made his sixth Premier League appearance of the season. His rehab will keep him out of action for another five or six weeks, and while he admits the season is a write-off at club level, he does hope to be back in action in the green jersey this summer.

That could be in with Mick McCarthy's senior side, or Stephen Kenny's U-21 panel, while he's also still eligible for the U-19 side which has reached the European Championship finals, to be held in Armenia in July. After a lengthy absence his club may be reluctant to allow Obafemi report for international duty at any level, though he is hopeful.

"I'm not going to play for the remainder of the season in club football, so I'd say international football is my next target," said Obafemi, speaking at the launch of Coca-Cola's Premier League Trophy Tour in Dublin yesterday. "I want to play at the Aviva in front of everyone, in front of the home crowd. But obviously when I get back fit, that's my first goal."

Obafemi noted recent successes by the Ireland U-21 and U-19 sides and he sees green shoots in the likes of Adam Idah, who scored twice in a 3-0 win for the U-21s last month, Aaron Connolly and his club-mate Jonathan Afolabi. "I think there's obviously quality players in there, the names you mentioned, Troy Parrott as well. Yeah, the future is bright for Ireland," he said.

Committed: ‘I knew that I would play for Ireland. It was the only one out of the three,’ says Michael Obafemi. Photo: INPHO
Committed: ‘I knew that I would play for Ireland. It was the only one out of the three,’ says Michael Obafemi. Photo: INPHO

Before he made his senior debut last year, a tug-of-war over his services was played out online. Obafemi admits that the time he spent in Ireland was brief, but his commitment was strong.

"From what I know, I know that I was born in Dublin, my mum was visiting her sisters, I think I moved back to London a couple of weeks later, where I grew up.

"I didn't stay too long but when I come here I still feel like I am home," he said, describing as "crap" the reports from Nigeria that his family wanted him to play for the African nation.

"I didn't really pay attention to all of that as I didn't think it was a big issue. The media made a bigger issue than it was. I didn't really pay attention to Declan's [Rice] situation. I knew myself that I would play for Ireland. It was the only one out of the three."

Irish Independent

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