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'There is no doubt in my mind that I can beat Robbie Keane's record'

Mipo Odubeko had an emotional return to Tallaght Stadium for the Ireland U21s, as he recalls visits to family home of Irish legend.

Ireland's Mipo Odubeko.
Ireland's Mipo Odubeko.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

MIPO ODUBEKO DIDN’T have far to look for inspiration growing up in Tallaght.

When he wasn’t watching Gary Twigg bang in the goals for Shamrock Rovers, the regular visits to Robbie Keane’s mother’s house was all that was required to make him believe he could achieve his dreams.

They are beginning to come true in an Ireland jersey now, his superb goal for the U21s on Friday night capping off what was an emotional homecoming at Tallaght Stadium.

The three points against Bosnia and Herzegovina were crucial in their quest for qualification for the European Championships, but the moment also gave the West Ham United youngster a chance to reflect.

“Keano is very tangible for me. We went to the same primary school, it’s in front of me. I can see what he done. I grew up watching him. He is a big role model,” Odubeko explained.

“My best mate growing up was Adam Bennett. He’s Robbie’s nephew and I would always be down at Adam’s house. I’d knock around to Robbie’s Mum’s house and the pictures of Robbie are on the wall.

“You see them all. It gives you a good feeling. You feel like you can do it. You feel like you can go on to do what he did… if not better.”

robbie-keane Robbie Keane is an inspiration. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Keane, of course, struck 68 senior goals for Ireland, while Odubeko got off the mark for Jim Crawford’s side in just his second appearance of this campaign.

“Of course it’s a target and there is no doubt in my mind that I can beat that once I start playing for the senior team. Obviously the main thing is to keep my feet on the ground, keep my head in the game and keep focused.

“I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps. This is the first time in three years that I played in Tallaght. I played for the Under-17s here in March 2019 and I’m back now. I’m happy to be representing Ireland. It’s a great feeling.

“I block out the outside noise to focus on what I can do,” he added, referencing the fact he was unavailable for selection having felt disappointed to be overlooked for the U17 squad for the European Championships in 2019.

“I can score goals and that’s the main thing for me. When I’m called upon I can help the team, defensively and attacking wise. You can see the happiness on my face.

“I’m a striker. When chances come I feel I will score. It’s what I was born to do. The more chances that come the more goals I will get.

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“There are always going to be doubters, there are always going to be knockers. Especially with all the controversy that comes with not being in the squad. But, you know, just block that out, and when I get on the pitch just run my bollox off and help the team.”

gary-twigg-celebrates-scoring Former Shamrock Rovers striker Gary Twigg. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Odubeko has had a taste of first-team action at West Ham United while loan spells with Huddersfield Town and, most recently, Doncaster Rovers have helped his development.

And he knows what will be required on the international stage to make that leap into the senior ranks.

“Make sure that the 21s qualify for the Euros, score a couple of goals and then I go back to West Ham in the summer. I’m very focused on that. I’m not the same kid I was even 12 months.

“I’m more focused, fitter, I’m stronger. I’m a way better player. I’ve had difficult experiences over the past 12 months but they are the experiences that make you the person you are. I’m very happy with the experiences I’ve had and how they are going to contribute me long term.

“The game is difficult. You are going to be tested against big, physical defenders and you have to know how to be able to adapt your game and be able to do different stuff – sometimes hold the ball up, sometimes run in behind or link the play up more. I’m open for all of it.”

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