Michael Obafemi targets long international career after making Ireland debut

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A thrilled Michael Obafemi has set his sights on a long international career after becoming the first player born this century to be capped by the Republic of Ireland.

The 18-year-old Southampton striker was used as a late substitute in Ireland’s 0-0 Nations League draw in Denmark on Monday evening days after committing himself to the country of his birth rather than to either England or Nigeria, for whom he also qualifies.

Speaking after the game at Ceres Park in Aarhus, he said: “It’s an amazing feeling to get my first cap for my country. I’m very proud tonight, absolutely buzzing.

“I’ll be getting this shirt framed to put it in my house. Obviously my career is still young, but this is definitely a major moment in it.

“Hopefully I can be playing for years to come. I’m still young. I want to get as many caps as possible, score goals if I can and just keep enjoying it.”

Obafemi unwittingly found himself dragged into the Declan Rice saga last week as the West Ham defender ponders over whether to opt for the Republic or England, although he insisted there was never any question in his mind.

He said: “There was no doubt in my head about playing for Ireland. I’ve represented Ireland in youth ages. I never had any doubts at all.”

The teenager will now head back to his club hoping to get more first-team football under his belt as he attempts to force his way into Martin O’Neill’s plans for the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in March next year.

O’Neill said: “He had made the commitment anyway that he wanted to play and whether it was going to be tonight or some other evening, he’s got a lot to do, a lot to do. I think he realises that himself.

“We’ll see what the next couple of months brings. I think Shane Long is out for a little while – I’m talking really about his club form – and he’s hoping to get some time.

“Obviously he has to fight for that and he has to earn that, but that would be nice if that’s the case.

“In terms of international football, it’s lovely for him to get on. I think his mum was here again tonight and that’s very, very pleasing. But I think he knows himself he has plenty to do.”

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