Mick McCarthy: 'We might look down the line and laud Martin O'Neill for capping Michael Obafemi'

Sun, Dec 02 2018

Obafemi made his international bow against Ireland's Group D opponents last month. Credit: Michael P Ryan

Dave Donnelly reports from Convention Centre Dublin

Mick McCarthy feels his predecessor Martin O’Neill may be owed a debt of gratitude for integrating Michael Obafemi into the international team at the age of 18.

The Southampton striker made his senior debut in O’Neill’s final game in charge, in the last UEFA Nations League game against Denmark in Aarhus last month.

That game tied the Dublin-born, London-raised teenager to his country of birth as England and Nigeria, whom he qualified for through ancestry, were also aware of his potential.

Obafemi has gone from strength to strength with his club side, bagging an assist in his first Premier League start in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Saturday.

The striker limped off just past the hour with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, and McCarthy will hope the issue doesn't hamper his opportunities to kick on.

And McCarthy, who has only had opportunity to scout Championship games since being named manager seven days ago, thinks O’Neill’s foresight could pay off in the coming months and years.

“We were discussing it when he made his debut and Martin brought him on,” he told reporters at the EURO 2020 draw at the Convention Centre in Dublin.

“I said we might be looking down the line and lauding Martin O’Neill for doing that because there’s not that many strikers around in the Premier League, and a young one.

“He played well yesterday, apparently. I didn’t see the game – I was doing other things here. I’m delighted.

“I hope he stays in the team and develops into a Premier League footballer that I can pick from in March.”

Ireland will come up against the Danes once more in qualifying group D for EURO 2020 following the draw in Dublin, which also pits the Boys in Green with Switzerland, Georgia and Gibraltar.

The precise fixture list will be finalised later on Sunday, but the five-team group means McCarthy will have at least two opportunities to try players out in friendlies.

McCarthy was announced as manager last Sunday and has made good use of his time since to see some players in the flesh, though he missed the weekend’s fixtures due to commitments in Dublin.

“I went to watch Brentford-Sheffield United on Tuesday, having got back Monday, and I went to Millwall on Wednesday.

“TC [assistant manager Terry Connor] went to watch Villa, and he went to watch Birmingham-Preston yesterday. I had somebody at Reading, so we’ve looked at games. Of course we have.”