O’Neill to discuss international future with Michael Obafemi
18-year-old Southampton striker qualifies for England and Nigeria as well as Ireland
Michael Obafemi has retained his place in Martin O’Neill’s Ireland squad. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty
Martin O’Neill says that he will sit down with Michael Obafemi and his family to discuss the player’s international future over the coming days before deciding whether the 18-year-old might play any part in Monday’s Nations League tie against Denmark, a game that would end any question of the striker switching an allegiance in the future.
The manager has been impressed with the striker and suggested that he would probably be involved against Northern Ireland on Thursday evening but he is waiting to clarify whether the teenager is absolutely happy to commit to the Republic of Ireland or whether he, like Declan Rice, wants some time to consider his options, in his case the possibility of playing for England or Nigeria, both of whom he qualifies for.
“I don’t think I could rule that (playing him at some stage in Aarhus next Monday) out but I will discuss it with him and members of his family,” said the manager after the Irish squad’s first training session of the week. “He is in the squad at this minute. He has decisions to make for his future. I think that it’s something that he will discuss that with his family; you would expect that, so there will be no real pressure for him to make that decision in the next few days.
“It is the player and his family’s decision; the last thing you would want to do is to rush a player into a situation like that if they uncomfortable with it. I don’t know if that’s the case - I hope to talk to him this afternoon - but he has decisions to make and whatever they are I will respect them.”
O’Neill admits that this is a situation he is going to find himself in with increasing regularity as players weigh up their international futures and he accepts that his view of the rule rather depends on whether the most recent decisions have gone Ireland’s way or not.
In an interview published on Monday with a British paper, as it happens, Willem II midfielder Danny Crowley, who represented both the Republic of Ireland and England at under-17 level, has reiterated his preference for playing in green at senior level if the opportunity arises.
“If a player is good enough to be with us then he is worth fighting for,” said O’Neill. “If fighting is the correct word and I am not sure that it is but you get my meaning. But I think this is something that is going to occur more and more.”
Republic of Ireland Squad
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Colin Doyle, Caoimhin Kelleher
Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Matt Doherty, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Kevin Long, John Egan, Darragh Lenihan, Lee O’Connor*, Enda Stevens
Midfielders: Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Harry Arter, David Meyler, Shaun Williams, Alan Browne, Callum O’Dowda, James McClean
Forwards: Scott Hogan, Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson, Aiden O’Brien, Ronan Curtis, Michael Obafemi
*Indicates the player will only train with the squad