Jim Crawford’s talent search lands prize catches for under-21 set-up

Sevilla’s Ryan Johansson and Getafe’s John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa in squad for friendlies

Jim Crawford's Republic of Ireland under-21 panel includes talent from German and Spanish clubs with the geographical balance evened out by UCD striker Colm Whelan and Bohemians defender Andy Lyons making the cut.

Crawford's squad also ends two long-running eligibility sagas with Sevilla's Ryan Johansson and Getafe's John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa set to link up with the camp in Marbella ahead of next week's friendlies against Switzerland, Australia and Denmark.

Presuming Finn Benoa’s mother is satisfied with the 17-year-old’s preparation for exams to get into university, the youngest Getafe player to feature in La Liga Primera División could make an instant and lasting impact.

Johansson is a real coup for Irish football as the Luxembourg-born midfielder had the option of declaring for Sweden, his father’s country, but choose his maternal home instead.


“He had that move from Bayern Munich to Sevilla, which is phenomenal in this day and age, to get a six-year deal for someone so young,” said Crawford. “He’s an exceptionally bright boy, a very good footballer and I’m excited to work with him.”

Other players not included in this summer's group, but earmarked for future honours with Ireland or whatever country they ultimately choose, are 18-year-old West Ham striker Mipo Odubeko, Manchester City's Liam Delap and Stoke City's Joshua Ireland, the later pair being sons of former Irish internationals Rory Delap and Stephen Ireland.

“It’s a little bit stale at the minute, if you ask me,” said Crawford of attempts to entice Odubeko away from declaring for Nigeria or England. “You know, Stephen [Kenny] has been in touch with the agent [Gbolahan Adarabioyo], I’ve been in touch with the agent and what I’ve heard, they will be sitting around the table today discussing what’s the next steps for Mipo.

“Whatever decision is made, I just hope it’s the right decision for Mipo because he’s a good fella and if I was to say anything, you only have to look at another former Irish international that came from Tallaght that made an unbelievable career [for himself].

"I think Robbie Keane made his debut when he was 17, came on, scored goals and that's something, if I was Mipo, I'd be aspiring towards. We've got a manager with the senior team who's willing to play young players. I think it's something for him to think about.

“Some players like Ryan Johansson jump all over it and go ‘yeah I can’t wait’,” Crawford explained. “Others need time. He is a player who’s got unbelievable pace, can score goals and would be an asset to any squad so we’ll just see what happens in the near future.”

On Delap and the 16-year-old Ireland, Crawford added: “The way I’d see it [Delap] hasn’t played a competitive game with England so why not make contact? His family are from around the Donegal area.

“I’m not going to lie, you are told that’s Stephen Ireland’s son, I’ll have a look at what he’s about. He was very good. Very good.

“You can tell he’s got an eye for a pass and he’s another one who plays in that 10 position.”

Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Blair (Norwich City), Brian Maher (Bray Wanderers), Dan Rose (Schalke 04).

Defenders: Ciarán Brennan (Sheffield Wednesday), Festy Ebosele (Derby County), Shane Flynn (Leicester City), Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Oisín McEntee (Newcastle United), Mark McGuinness (Arsenal), Lewis Richards (Wolves), Seán Roughan (Lincoln City).

Midfielders: John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa (Getafe), Luca Connell (Celtic), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Dawson Devoy (Bohemians), Alex Gilbert (Brentford), Conor Grant (Rochdale), Ryan Johansson (Sevilla), Conor Noss (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Louie Watson (Derby County).

Forwards: Jonathan Afolabi (Celtic), Will Ferry (Southampton), Joshua 'JJ' Kayode (Rotherham United), Gavin Kilkenny (Bournemouth), Colm Whelan (UCD), Tyreik Wright (Aston Villa).

Friendly Fixtures (all times Irish and all games played at Dama de Noche Football Centre, Marbella)

May 30th: v Switzerland, 11am – Live on Premier Sports 1/FreeSports

June 2nd: v Australia, noon – Live on Premier Sports 1/FreeSports)

June 5th: v Denmark, 5pm – To be shown at 9.30pm on Premier Sports 1