Michael Obafemi: Republic boss Martin O’Neill under no pressure to rush teenage frontman

Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager Roy Keane and Michael Obafemi
Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager Roy Keane and Michael Obafemi

Martin O’Neill is refusing to pressurise teenage striker Michael Obafemi into a decision over whether he wants to play international football for the Republic of Ireland.

The 18-year-old Southampton frontman, who also qualifies for England and Nigeria, could make his debut for the Republic in Thursday night’s friendly against Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, but is unlikely to be involved in Monday night’s Nations League trip to Denmark.

Manager O’Neill revealed earlier this week that he would talk to both Obafemi and his parents about his future, but would not rush him, a similar policy to the one he has adopted with West Ham’s Declan Rice.

Asked on Wednesday if those discussions had taken place, he replied: “I haven’t spoken to his parents, but I have spoken to him.

“He’s enjoyed the training, it’s been really good, and has done very well in the training.

“He’s settled in nicely, I think he’s really enjoyed it. But I think in terms of decisions for tying him down, I think that’s a bit of a distance off.

“He’s got things to think about, like everything else, and I certainly would not be rushing him. That was my point to him.

“As I said a couple of days ago, if he had rushed in and said ‘This is exactly what I want to do’, fine, then that’s a different issue.

“But I want the people obviously to want to play for us for a start, and I want them to be right for the rest of their time.”

Acutely aware of the difficulties Rice is having while trying to make his decision - he has also spoken to England boss Gareth Southgate after making three friendly appearances for Ireland - O’Neill insisted he would not try to force Obafemi’s hand.

Asked if the player would travel to Denmark for a competitive fixture which would commit him to the Republic, he replied: “At this minute - unless we have heard anything to the contrary - no, he wouldn’t do that.”