Irish manager Mick McCarthy admitted that Southampton striker Michael Obafemi is unproven as he assesses his 40-man provisional squad ahead of the games against Switzerland and Bulgaria.
McCarthy selected a large panel which will be cut down to 23 over the next couple of weeks and it includes ten forwards, including Obafemi.
The 19-year-old has yet to feature in a squad under the new regime having missed Ireland’s last four games through injury but Obafemi is back fit and involved, for now at least.
Obafemi made his debut for the Irish senior side at 18 under Martin O’Neill coming off the bench in the UEFA Nations League draw against Denmark and in an injury ridden campaign managed to become Southampton’s youngest ever Premier League goalscorer.
Despite being in the first team squad for both of Southampton’s first two Premier League games, and seeing minutes in the defeat to Burnley last week, McCarthy feels that he is still unproven over a period of time in the top flight.
The Irish manager admitted that Obafemi has promising attributes but his comments do not seem to indicate that he will be a part of the final 23-man squad for the Aviva double header.
“Has anybody seen him play five games on the bounce in the Premier League? I haven’t,” said McCarthy.
“So he is a sub and is blisteringly quick and is always going to be a threat in the last knocking of a game.
“He is playing with players whom he knows and trains with them on a regular basis. He is probably going to be a threat, certainly more of a threat for Southampton than he is for us.
“He is not proven yet over a period of time. It’s like if I gave somebody a debut and you would all then question me for giving him a debut. I am unlikely to do that.
The provisional squad contains a host of strikers and with Aiden O’Brien and Shane Long the only players to have scored in green among them, competition up front is fierce.
McCarthy also hinted that despite struggling at international level thus far, Preston’s Sean Maguire is likely to be ahead of Obafemi in the pecking order while also mentioning Scott Hogan, another frontman in the squad.
“Seán Maguire scored at the weekend and he is blisteringly quick.
“And he has been scoring goals in the Championship.
“It does not bother me if they are scoring in the Championship or the Premier League, unless you are scoring regularly in the Premier League.
“Is Michael Obafemi a regular scorer in the Premier League? No.
“Scott Hogan ripped it up for Brentford at one stage and then had a badly broken leg. He’s back playing. He did not score at the weekend but he might start.
“So I can make cases for the ones who have been in the squad rather than making cases for the ones who might get into the squad.”
McCarthy’s comments appear to be a strong indication that Obafemi will be linking up instead with Stephen Kenny at the U21s ahead of their games against Armenia and Sweden.