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'We are certainly not going to rush him' - Ireland make approach for highly rated La Liga teenager

John Joe Patrick Finn has also had interest from England and Spain.

John Joe Patrick Finn has made six La Liga appearances for Getafe.
John Joe Patrick Finn has made six La Liga appearances for Getafe.

Updated Jan 29th 2021, 7:56 AM

IRELAND U21 BOSS Jim Crawford is hopeful highly rated youngster John Joe Patrick Finn will declare for Ireland.

The 17-year-old made his La Liga debut for Getafe in December and is widely considered as one of the most promising players in the Spanish top flight.

Finn, who has made six La Liga appearances at the time of writing, was born in Madrid, but is eligible to represent Ireland through his late Mayo-born father, while he could also represent Cameroon, where his mother hails from.

And Crawford revealed that along with senior manager Stephen Kenny and Ireland U19s boss Tom Mohan, he was on a call with Finn a few weeks ago.

“We put together a presentation for John Joe and his mother was part of the call,” he explained. “So we had a good chat with both of them and he was certainly blown away by the presentation that was put together and by what Stephen, Tom and I had to say.

“We are certainly not going to rush him, but we have made contact. He was overwhelmed and he certainly had a big smile on his face. I’ll be making contact with him in the near future to see if there has been any decision.”

Crawford continued: “England U21s have made an approach and Spain U21s have made an approach. He is very well sought after, so all we can do is put our case forward and that’s certainly what we did. Again, the decision is in his hands. But to answer your question, yes, we made an approach.”

Asked about the midfielder’s progress in Spain, Crawford added: “When you break it down, he has been getting eight minutes here, three minutes there, two minutes here. But he did play in the Copa del Rey for 90 minutes. I watched the game and he played well. He has been playing out on the right and the left in these games, but his most favourable position would be central midfield. We had a good chat about that and that’s where he’s happiest. If that’s where he’s happiest, we’d be prepared to bring him in and play him there.”

Another hot prospect currently on Crawford’s radar is Evan Ferguson, the 16-year-old forward who has already played senior football for Bohemians and recently signed with Brighton.

“Again, he is somebody that I am going to monitor. He has gone to the [Brighton] 23s. Bohemians let me go down and coach their U17s in the build-up to a camp, so I got to see him first-hand. He is another great lad who loves his football, works hard and is talented.

“It’s a period now where he has just moved to Brighton. It’s important to let him settle and see what happens over the next few months, how he develops with the 23s. But it has been a great start for him and we’ve got high hopes for Evan, that’s for sure.

“You’ve got to look at the player’s potential. Is he good enough to play with the 21s? If they are good enough, you would certainly bring them in. We spoke about [Shamrock Rovers youngster] Kevin Zefi earlier on. If he is playing well and I think he can do a job at U21 level, I would have no hesitation in bringing him in.”

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One player a bit further along in his development is West Ham starlet Mipo Odubeko, the 18-year-old Tallaght-born striker who recently made his Hammers first-team debut in the FA Cup.

“I had him on standby at one stage for the U21s but he got injured over in West Ham,” Crawford said.

“I know all about Mipo. I had the luxury of watching a lot of his games at St Joseph’s Boys in Sallynoggin.

“I know all about the pathway he took, going to Manchester and now he’s back in London. They think very highly of him at West Ham.

“He came on in the FA Cup and was on the bench in the last game. They’ve got high hopes for him.

“I link in with [another West Ham and Ireland youngster] Conor Coventry quite a bit and there’s no harm getting a player’s perspective on a player. Conor sees him as a quality player too. He’s an exciting prospect coming through.

“I remember when he played for Joeys, the two big strikers in the country at that time were Mipo and Troy Parrott. They’ve certainly gone their separate ways, but there’s potential there with Mipo.”

Over the course of Thursday’s press conference, Crawford was also asked about the vacant coaching position in the senior set-up, but played down suggestions that either himself or assistant John O’Shea could undertake the role on a permanent or part-time basis.

On the future of the former Manchester United defender, he added: “We’ll see what happens, but at the minute, I can only assume he’ll certainly be with us in March [when the U21 Euro qualifiers begin].”

Crawford also reserved high praise for Jason Knight, who has been excelling in the Championship with Derby this season and has attracted interest from the Premier League, though manager Wayne Rooney has suggested the 19-year-old won’t be sold in the current window.

“It’s about the right club. If he’s on the bench, I think players can get frustrated when they have had the taste of first-team football. It’s great to have. So it has to be the right club. I know managers can’t guarantee players a place, but like Nathan [Collins] he has to think carefully about his next move. As long as he’s happy. He’s now captain about Derby and he’s playing unbelievably well and he’s getting better and better after every game. I nearly had him play with the 21s a couple of times when he was in the starting XI with a particular way we wanted to play, but he made the step up to the senior team and I was over the moon for him.

“His character hasn’t changed since he was 14 or 15. He came into me with the Irish U18s and was still the same. He was driven and focused. He plays every game and gets involved in every training session like he is on trial. He gives it everything and afterwards in team meetings, he asks the right questions. He goes about his business and away from the training pitch, he is the ultimate pro. He has passion and desire to become the best player he can be. He is a fantastic kid and it didn’t surprise me that he has become captain at Derby, as I always said he would be a captain one day.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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