Analysis: Ireland underage star Romeo Akachukwu in the First Division play-offs
Romeo Akachukwu is drawing Premier League interest for a reason.
Romeos have a tendency to perform on the big stage and that was certainly the case for Waterford FC’s Romeo Akachukwu in the League of Ireland First Division play-offs.
Whether you soaked in his exploits at the U17s Euros over the summer or watched him bag a hat-trick against Athlone in the play-off semi-final, you have probably seen a clip or two of the midfielder at this stage.
And we’re here to go a little bit further by giving you the lowdown on his ability and where his future may lie.
Romeo Akachukwu: Player Profile
His positional play is very mature given his age.
Romeo usually plays as a number ten for Waterford and ,whenever primary forward Ronan Coughlan chases balls down the channel, he is the first in the box to act as a temporary striker.
In general play, his late runs constantly put fear into opposing defences.
But he’s also useful when drifting wide himself, as he shows whenever Roland Idowu comes inside off the right wing.
That’s because the 17-year-old is excellent in tight situations, wriggling free from defenders while also keeping the attack moving.
For a teenager, his physical qualities are tremendous and he shows this routinely while holding onto the ball and bursting forward.
His long strides take him away from defenders with ease.
⏱️ 62' Introduced (Waterford 0-0 Athlone)
⚽ 65' GOAL (Waterford 1-0 Athlone)
⚽ 78' GOAL (Waterford 2-1 Athlone)
⚽ 95' GOAL (Waterford 3-1 Athlone)
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) October 28, 2023
Thanks to his versatility, he has played deeper for both Ireland’s 19s and 17s, showing off his passing range and neat ball control.
When wearing green, Romeo shows that he’s well capable of a tackle and starts many attacks from his interceptions. It’s clear to see, despite being best known for his attacking qualities, the teenager is already an all-round midfielder which is so rare for someone his age.
Romeo made his debut in 2022 as a sub for the Blues but it has been the second half of the 2023 season where he has shone in the first team.
Since starting in the 6-1 statement victory at home to Dave Rogers’ Finn Harps, Romeo featured in almost every game for the rest of the season.
He scored his first senior goal against St. Michael’s in the FAI Cup where he picked the ball up, went past a couple of defenders effortlessly, and beautifully struck the ball past the keeper’s left-hand side.
However, he truly found his scoring touch right when his club needed it…
By coming on in the 62nd minute of a play-off semi-final and putting Waterford in front just three minutes later.
Athlone equalised and – you guessed it – Romeo found the back of the net again to make 2-1. He struck a third for good measure to claim the match ball and more importantly, send his club to the play-off final against Cobh.
𝐇𝐚𝐭-𝐓𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐤 𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐨 ⚽️⚽️⚽️
— Waterford FC (@WaterfordFCie) October 30, 2023
Against Cobh, Romeo managed to put in a solid display, popping up in different positions and being a physical nuisance. He was subbed before extra-time, but made his mark on the game, with the commentary team remarking how he “played beyond his years.
Early on in the promotion/relegation match, he had a massive chance which was well saved by Irish U21 keeper Tiernan Brooks. Again a nuisance, he led breaks for the Blues who looked a level above the Premier Division outfit.
After Parsons’s majestic finish with 20 minutes left, Romeo came off to a big round of applause.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) November 10, 2023
Romeo on the international stage
Romeo scored his first goal for the Ireland U17s against Armenia last October. The goal came from a signature Romeo run from deep where the defence failed to track him.
He then scored the first in a 2-2 draw with the Italians later on in the Elite Round of qualifying. Interestingly, he did not start in the next three games for the 17s.
After a big loss to Poland in their opening Euro U17 group match, Colin O’Brien stuck Romeo back into the starting lineup.
Despite playing deeper as a number eight, he excelled in his tackling and helping the team build out from their own third.
This goal from the U17s is definitely one of the best I've seen from an Irish side, but what I find interesting is how many of these goals we're seeing across Ireland underage football, in the LOI and occasionally in the men's senior team. DNA shift ☘️pic.twitter.com/DJmPr8CYQM
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) May 20, 2023
Then, just after the hour mark, Romeo collected the ball and struck it straight into the top corner. Hitting it expertly with the inside of his boot, he still generated an enormous amount of power.
Des Curran called it “one of the best goals you’ll see from any Irish side ever”, and he was not exaggerating. Along with the strike, the play from back to front showed how much class that age group had.
He went on to start the next two against Hungary and Spain before Ireland bowed out of the Euros where the lads held their heads high in how they represented their nation. Romeo made his U19s debut in September where he again played as an 8.
In a 2-0 win over Scotland a month later, we saw Romeo be the first receiver of possession plenty of times from goal kicks and play as a 6/8. His versatility is just one of the things that attracts clubs like Newcastle to knock on Waterford’s door.
From his performances with Waterford and Ireland, Romeo garnered plenty of interest. Initially, it was thought that AC Milan, Manchester United, and Newcastle were all interested in the 17-year-old.
It was the Magpies who made the most effort. During the summer, Romeo went out to play with the Newcastle’s U21 side in a friendly.
As we know though, Irish players have to be eighteen before they can transfer to any English club so Romeo signed a three-year deal before making a final decision, which guarantees Waterford a decent fee (which is rare in Irish football).
Arsenal and Manchester City join hunt to land rising Waterford teen star Romeo Akachukwu https://t.co/4DLQvd9z2m
— Irish Independent (@Independent_ie) November 14, 2023
Then, just today, more reports broke about Romeo’s future which suggest Newcastle won’t be his eventual destination after all.
According to the Independent, Manchester City and Arsenal are both interested and Southampton are willing to offer £500,000 for his services.
The report also states that Waterford’s parent club Fleetwood Town are intersted.
For more League Of Ireland content from Pundit Arena, check out @LOI_Radar on Twitter.