O’Neill weighs up handing debut to Obafemi against Denmark

Ireland boss describes idea he would cap player to avoid another saga ‘absolute lunacy’

Michael Obafemi during the Ireland training session at Ceres Park in Aarhus ahead of Monday night’s Nations League game against Denmark. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Michael Obafemi during the Ireland training session at Ceres Park in Aarhus ahead of Monday night’s Nations League game against Denmark. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Martin O’Neill says he will weigh up whether to give Michael Obafemi his international debut against Denmark in Aarhus on Monday night but described the suggestion that he might cap the 18-year-old so as to rule out a repeat of the saga he has had to endure with Declan Rice as “absolute lunacy”.

Obafemi made it clear last week that he hopes to have an international future with Ireland and O’Neill said that that makes for a “much easier scenario” now. The manager has talked about the more limited scope that exists for playing new or peripheral players in competitive games, though, and seemed to suggest that the Dublin-born striker will have to wait a while.

Asked if he might just cap him to avoid a repeat of the Rice situation, he dismissed the idea and said he finds the idea that he should have put Rice on against Moldova, at a time when he had barely broken into the first team at West Ham, as “incredible”.

Séamus Coleman agreed: “If he wasn’t playing for West Ham, you can’t just give him caps to tie him down,” said the team captain. “It [playing for Ireland] is the best feeling in the world. You have to earn it.”

All of the players who travelled to Aarhus for Monday’s game are fit and available to take part. With the team going into the match with just one win in 10 and certain to be relegated from the second tier of the Nations League, O’Neill set the target was simply to “play well”.

“I want them to play with a little bit of confidence,” he said, “to get back to where we were. To show a bit of resilience but also to be that bit more creative. And if we can do that then obviously to create a few more chances.”

O’Neill must cope without James McClean for the game but Age Hareide is without regulars Kasper Schmeichel, Thomas Delaney (both suspended) as well as his skipper, Simon Kjaer.

With the others out, Christian Eriksen is likely to start, although the Tottenham star is unlikely to last the 90 minutes.

“We are top of the group and now this is a game to play to get better,” said Hareide. “It is chance to change some players. It is good for the team to know who is capable of playing in international matches, who is capable of doing a job when we have injuries or suspensions in the next campaign.

“The performance in Wales was good and of course we are satisfied, being in this position. But I know that in football you are always remembered for the last result and that’s why the next game is always important and that next game is tomorrow.”

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