Jim Crawford hoping Mipo Odubeko will stick with Ireland over Nigeria

The 18-year-old turned down under-21s after previous exclusion from under-17s

Mipo Odubeko in action for Ireland under-17s. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Mipo Odubeko in action for Ireland under-17s. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Republic of Ireland under-21s manager Jim Crawford has confirmed that Mipo Odubeko’s refusal to join up with the squad is due the 18-year-old’s previous experience in the FAI system.

The Nigerian FA are believed to be interested in enticing the West Ham striker, who was born in Dublin, to change his shade of green.

“I was aware of it,” said Crawford of Odubeko’s disappointment at being excluded from the under-17 squad for the 2019 Euros, held near his family home in Tallaght. “It was just one of those things. According to him, he didn’t have a good experience.

“I think if you ask anybody else who has been involved in that squad they would say they had a great experience, so everybody is different.”

Odubeko was not selected for that squad, with three forwards - Matt Everitt, Conor Carty and Joshua Giurgi - named ahead of him. In the meantime, he impressed in the Manchester United underage ranks before David Moyes promoted the two footed finisher to the West Ham senior team this season.

“All I can say is I would like to sit down with Mipo,” said Crawford, “whether I can get over to the UK for a chat with him, to see what his plans are with regard international football, and to get a concrete answer.

“It is an unbelievable opportunity for a young striker to get involved with the 21s. We have a lot of talent here too.”

Odubeko can play under-21s for Ireland and still switch international allegiance to Nigeria or England before he turns 21. Crawford was asked if direct communication between the FAI and Mipo has been an issue.

“At the minute the conversation has been with his agent [Gbolahan Adarabioya]. Stephen [Kenny] has contacted his agent. I have spoken to his agent.”

A text from Odubeko to Crawford indicated that he was “honoured” to be selected to represent Ireland but the manager also revealed that Adarabioya subsequently stated that he needs “a little bit of time.”

“As I said before, Mipo is entitled to make a decision. I just hope for the 21s and possibly the senior team that he makes the right decision.”

If Odubeko opts for Nigeria, having come through the Irish system with St Josephs Boys AFC, would the FAI be concerned that the current stream of talented Irish footballers of Nigerian descent might become a regular target for the Super Eagles?

“That could happen but that is out of our control,” Crawford replied. “All we can do is to make sure every player, no matter what their background is, that every time they come into an Irish camp they love putting on the green jersey and they love being around the place.

“That is hugely important. That is the responsibility of me, the coaching staff, the extended staff, to make sure that players feel Irish and they want to play for Ireland.”

John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa is another Irish qualified player with enormous potential, having already featured for Getafe in La Liga, but the 17-year-old has opted to focus on university entrance exams with Crawford only made aware of the issue earlier this week by the player’s mother.

Crawford hopes to redirect the midfielder, whose father hails from Mayo, into the under-19 squad later this summer.

“First and foremost is football [for Finn Benoa] but I understand his decision. And best of luck to him with the exams.”

A new generation of Republic of Ireland under-21s face Switzerland tomorrow in Marbella, Spain before closing out the summer camp with games against Australia’s Olympic side on Wednesday and Denmark under-21s next Saturday.

Watford’s Bosun Lawal and Wolfsburg’s Anselmo Garcia MacNulty are late additions to the group after Finn Benoa and Sheffield Wednesday defender Ciaran Brennan pulled out.

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