Mick McCarthy has been singing the praises of young Ireland international Michael Obafemi after seeing the 19-year-old in action in Southampton’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Spurs on Saturday.
“I’ve had Michael watched several times but this was the first time I’ve seen him live myself and I did like what I saw,” McCarthy told FAI.ie.
“He linked up well with Danny Ings, he got in behind the Spurs defence and while he didn’t have that many shots himself, he was a constant nuisance for the opposition.
“Michael did all the things I expected of him very well. We had Southampton watched when they won at Crystal Palace recently and the reports on Michael, Shane Long and James McCarthy were all very positive.
“Like all our players, Michael is benefitting from regular first team football and he certainly gave me something to think about on Saturday. I’ll be back to watch him again and to have a look at Shane.”
Resurgent Long, who missed out on Saturday’s game with a knee injury, is very much back in McCarthy’s mind as the manager continues his preparations for Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia.
“I’ve kept in regular contact with Shane and I’ve repeatedly told him that his return to form with his club will count for March,” said McCarthy.
Also on the manager’s radar is Ronan Curtis, the former Derry City man having scored his 12th goal of the season in Portsmouth’s 4-3 FA Cup win against Barnsley.
“He scored against my hometown club but I won’t hold that against him,” McCarthy quipped.
“Seriously Ronan has been in great form of late. He’s got 12 goals this season and he was the League One Player of the Month for November and December so he is right back in contention for a call-up for the Slovakia game.
“Ronan, like Michael and Shane, is one of a number of Irish players coming into form right now which is great news at this point in the season.”
McCarthy reported that he and his coaching staff are “putting the miles in” so that “no stone will be left unturned” in the bid to have, injury permitting, the best possible choice available to him - from the untried to the experienced - for the play-offs.
Said the manager: “Will Keane got his passport sorted last year but he has struggled with injuries until now and we will keep an eye on him at Ipswich. Jayson Molumby is impressing everyone at Millwall, while Jason Knight, Conor Masterson, and Dara O’Shea are all taking their chance in the Championship at present which is great for us.
“It’s not all about the kids though. James McClean is coming into his own under Michael O’Neill at Stoke, Glenn Whelan is really enjoying working with Joey Barton at Fleetwood, and Darren Randolph is back in the Premier League where he belongs.
“I know March is a long way off but there is a real feelgood factor about the players available for the squad now. Long may that continue.”