The FAI are bracing up for competition from Nigeria for the international allegiances of Michael Obafemi, who made his Premier League debut for Southampton yesterday.
Michael Durotimi Obafemi, at 17, his exploits in the Saints youth team earned him a place on the bench against Tottenham and he almost scored the winner during the 10 minutes he got on the pitch.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1, Mauricio Pellegrino threw the teenager and he came within inches of turning a cross home but for once his prolific finishing touch deserted him.
Obafemi was born in Ireland to Nigerian parents before relocating to England at a young age. He spent his formative years at Leyton Orient before being snapped up by the Saints.
Having been spotted by the FAI’s London-based scout Mark O’Toole, he declared for Ireland last year and was called into the U-18 squad for the Slovakia Cup. His debut, though, didn’t come until September when he played twice for the Under-19s in their first phase UEFA qualifiers in Waterford.
The next phase of the qualifiers take place in Portugal during March but, should his ascent continue, Obafemi may be fast-tracked into the U-21 squad for their Euro qualifier against Azerbaijan in the same week or even the senior training camp in Turkey.
Nigeria will have other ideas. In contrast to Ireland, they have qualified for the World Cup and will be eager to pitch themselves to a Premier League newcomer.
Another player eligible for both nations, Limerick’s in-demand striker Chiedozie Ogbene, has indicated he will declare for the Golden Eaglets.
“It’s a special feeling as I have dreamed of this since I was a kid,” said Obafemi following yesterday’s bow, which made him the second youngest player after Luke Shaw to make his top-flight debut for the Saints.
“I’m just thankful to the club and all the staff that made it happen.