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Dublin: 14 °C Saturday 20 July, 2019

'I've dreamed of it since I was a kid!' 17-year-old Irish striker makes Premier League debut

Southampton’s Michael Obafemi was given a chance to impress against Tottenham today.

Southampton's Michael Obafemi (right) and Tottenham Hotspur's Mousa Dembele.
Southampton's Michael Obafemi (right) and Tottenham Hotspur's Mousa Dembele.
Image: Mark Kerton

Updated at 19.57

IRELAND AREN’T EXACTLY blessed with an abundance of top-class strikers at the moment, but Michael Obafemi looks like he could be one for the future.

The 17-year-old, who was born in Ireland to Nigerian parents and brought up in England according to The Sun, was named on the bench for Southampton’s Premier League clash against Tottenham at St Mary’s this afternoon and subsequently entered the action in the 82nd minute, replacing Italian international Manolo Gabbiadini.

And with the score at 1-1, Obafemi had a chance to win it, slicing a shot wide after Dusan Tadic created an opening for him.

The Ireland U19 player, who is Southampton’s second youngest top-flight debutant behind current Man United star Luke Shaw, has impressed for the Saints’ underage sides, hitting a hat-trick in the FA Youth Cup last month.

“It’s a special feeling obviously. I’ve dreamed of it since I was a kid!” Obafemi, who is the first player born after the year 2000 to feature for the Saints, told Southampton’s in-house media afterwards.

“It’s come true. I’m thankful to the club and all the staff that made it happen.

“I can’t stop here. This is just the beginning of what I hope is my career.”

Of his missed chance late on, Obafemi added:  “When the chance came, I should have used my left foot but I hope I will get another opportunity to prove I can make it at this level.

“I was nervous but the welcome from the supporters was brilliant and the senior guys told me to just relax and prove myself. I want to move on from here and keep working hard.”

With the greater injection of TV money and substantial internationalisation of the Premier League in recent years, Irish teenagers playing at this level have become an increasingly rare sight of late.

However, Obafemi is not the only Irish-eligible teenager to feature in England’s top flight this season, with 19-year-old U21 international Declan Rice impressing in a number of appearances for West Ham.

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Paul Fennessy

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