Ryan Byrne/INPHO Michael Obafemi (file pic).
# Ready to go
Premier League trio included in Ireland U21 squad
Michael Obafemi, Will Smallbone and Dara O’Shea feature in the panel for the vital qualifier against Italy.

A TRIO OF players with Premier League experience have been included in the Ireland U21 squad, ahead of their crucial upcoming qualifier against Italy.

Michael Obafemi, Will Smallbone and Dara O’Shea — all of whom have featured in England’s top flight — make the cut for the tie in Pisa on 13 October at 4.30pm (Irish time).

Overall, the squad includes two senior internationals, four uncapped players and five SSE Airtricity League representatives.

The Boys in Green currently top Group 1 on 16 points, three points ahead of the Italians, who have a game in hand.

Just four players in the 22-man squad have yet to be capped at U21 level — Smallbone and Southampton clubmate Will Ferry, in addition to Carlisle United striker Joshua Kayode and Sligo goalkeeper Ed McGinty.

Dundalk’s Darragh Leahy is included among the League of Ireland contingent, after helping his side reach the Europa League group stages last night, while both Obafemi and Lee O’Connor have experience with the Boys in Green at senior level.

“We know the challenge that awaits us in Pisa,” U21 boss Jim Crawford told FAI TV. “Italy are top seeds in the group and we expect this to be the toughest game we have played so far.”

“Our squad is very experienced, and includes senior internationals like Lee and Michael. The squad worked hard in last month’s Training Camp and I look forward to getting the group together next week before we travel to Italy.”

Republic of Ireland Under-21 Squad

Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Ed McGinty (Sligo Rovers)
Defenders: Nathan Collins (Stoke City), Darragh Leahy (Dundalk), Conor Masterson (Queens Park Rangers), Danny McNamara (St Johnstone, on loan from Millwall), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers, on loan from Celtic), Thomas O’Connor (Southampton), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)
Midfielders: Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Will Ferry (Southampton), Jason Knight (Derby County), Daniel Mandroiu (Bohemians), Connor Ronan (Grasshopper Zurich, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jack Taylor (Peterborough United)
Attackers: Jonathan Afolabi (Dundee, on loan from Celtic), Zach Elbouzedi (Lincoln City), Neil Farrugia (Shamrock Rovers), Joshua Kayode (Carlisle United, on loan from Rotherham United), Michael Obafemi (Southampton)


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