SCOUTING REPORT | Obafemi impresses McCarthy at Saints

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SCOUTING REPORT | Obafemi impresses McCarthy at Saints

First impressions matter – and Southampton frontman Michael Obafemi made a very good first impression on Mick McCarthy as the countdown continues to Slovakia and the UEFA EURO 2020 Play-Off in March.
28th Jan 2020

The Ireland manager has had Obafemi scouted on several occasions since he took the job just over a year ago but Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Spurs was his first time to see the striker for himself.

With fellow Irishman Shane Long rested for the game as a precaution due to a knee injury, McCarthy’s focus was on the 19-year-old, capped once by Martin O’Neill.

Obafemi started alongside Danny Ings in the Saints attack and impressed the Ireland manager for the 74 minutes he was on the pitch.

“I’ve had Michael watched several times but this was the first time I’ve seen him live myself and I did like what I saw,” McCarthy told FAI.ie

“He linked up well with Danny Ings, he got in behind the Spurs defence and while he didn’t have that many shots himself, he was a constant nuisance for the opposition.

“Michael did all the things I expected of him very well. We had Southampton watched when they won at Crystal Palace recently and the reports on Michael, Shane and James McCarthy were all very positive.

“Like all our players, Michael is benefitting from regular first team football and he certainly gave me something to think about on Saturday. I’ll be back to watch him again and to have a look at Shane.

“I’ve also kept in regular contact with Shane and I’ve repeatedly told him that his return to form with his club will count for March.”

Ronan Curtis is another Irish player catching McCarthy’s eye right now after the former Derry City man scored his 12th goal of the season in the Saturday’s 4-3 FA Cup win against Barnsley.

“He scored against my hometown club but I won’t hold that against him,” laughed McCarthy. “Seriously Ronan has been in great form of late.

“He’s got 12 goals this season and he was the League One Player of the Month for November and December so he is right back in contention for a call-up for the Slovakia game.

“Ronan, like Michael Obafemi and Shane Long, is one of a number of Irish players coming into form right now which is great news at this point in the season.

“I said last year that once we got to January the time flew until the qualifiers in March and I expect it will be the same for the play-off. We just need these players to keep fit, keep playing well and keep giving me a headache about the squad selection.”

Keen to consider all options ahead of the trip to Bratislava, McCarthy has sent assistant Terry Connor to watch Ipswich recently with Will Keane back to full fitness, back in the team and back scoring goals.

Youngsters Jayson Molumby, Jason Knight, Dara O’Shea and Conor Masterson are also on the Bratislava radar while veteran midfielder Glenn Whelan is back in first team football with Fleetwood Town and Darren Randolph is back in the Premier League with West Ham.

“We are putting the miles in and I can promise the fans that no stone will be left unturned between now and the end of the March,” continued the Republic boss.

“Will got his passport sorted last year but he has struggled with injuries until now and we will keep an eye on him at Ipswich. Jayson Molumby is impressing everyone at Millwall while Jason Knight, Conor Masterson and Dara O’Shea are all taking their chance in the Championship at present which is great for us.

“It’s not all about the kids though. James McClean is coming into his own under Michael O’Neill at Stoke, Glenn is really enjoying working with Joey Barton at Fleetwood and Darren is back in the Premier League where he belongs.

“I know March is a long way off but there is a real feelgood factor about the players available for the squad now. Long may that continue.”