Joshua Kayode of Ireland pictured during last night's game. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Irish-Nigerian starlet delighted to score first goal in front of Tallaght crowd

It was a night to remember for Joshua Kayode against Luxembourg.

IT WAS a proud night for Joshua Kayode, as he scored the all-important opening goal in the Ireland U21 team’s 2-0 Euros qualification victory over Luxembourg on Friday.

It was not the first time Kayode has found the net against Luxembourg, with the young forward having scored against them during the last qualification campaign in Begen, but it was his first goal for the U21s with a home crowd watching on — Jim Crawford’s men ended a wait of almost two years to play in front of fans at Tallaght Stadium last night.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Kayode moved with his family to Ireland at a very young age, growing up just a 15-minute drive from Tallaght in Blanchardstown.

Having made his debut against Iceland last year, he has gradually developed into a key part of the U21 side and emphasised his importance last night as he led the line well in what was arguably a must-win game.

Kayode’s emergence is reflective of an increasingly diverse Irish squad in recent times. 

Chiedozie Ogbene earlier this year became the first African-born player to represent Ireland at senior level, 17 years on from Emeka Onwubiko achieving that landmark at underage level.

The likes of Michael Obafemi and Jonathan Afolabi — both of whom were born in Ireland to Nigerian parents — have made similarly positive strides in recent times, and if last night’s performance is anything to go by, Kayode has the potential to follow in Ogbene’s footsteps and line out at senior level.

“We’ve been working on it all week, forwards getting across the frontman,” he said afterwards when asked about his goal. “So it was something we’ve worked on and I just had to make sure I got there. It was a great feeling to score, especially with all the fans here in Tallaght, after such a long time without them.

“They are like a 12th man, an extra man for us. They gave us that extra lift and just hearing them roaring just pushed us on a little bit more, so it was great to have them back.”

Kayode also paid tribute to Salford winger Tyreik Wright, who provided the cross for his opener.

“As soon as Tyreik was there one-on-one, you’ve just got to get into the box. He was always going to deliver in that situation.”

Kayode continued: “We were disappointed after the game last month [having drawn 1-1 away to Luxembourg], so we knew coming here that we had to get the win. We are just glad we did and it’s even better that we scored another goal, because we weren’t as ruthless with our finishing last month. To get two goals and to keep a clean sheet was great.

“The lads are great, they are hard-working and we are never going to stop running and looking for the ball. It’s something that we’ve all got inside of us. Jim has been reiterating it all the time, to keep going until the end.”

Ireland will be hoping for another three points when they play again away from home on Tuesday.

The fact that Montenegro is among the countries on the UK and Germany’s red list has put several members of the Irish squad’s involvement in doubt, but boss Jim Crawford last night namechecked Rotherham youngster Kayode as one of the players he expects to be available.

“Everything is okay, so we are just going to enjoy tonight and then work hard again for that game on Tuesday,” the 21-year-old forward added.

“We didn’t think about [the uncertainty surrounding the Montenegro fixture] too much because we didn’t want it to be in our heads ahead of tonight’s game. So we let all the staff deal with that and we have just been focused on Luxembourg.

“We just have to work hard like we did tonight and hopefully, we’ll get the three points.”

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