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big risk Swansea City’s Irish-born striker Michael Obafemi snubs Ireland U-21 side for senior call-up

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Michael Obafemi's recent form at Swansea has sparked talk of an international recall for the first time since 2018. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Obafemi's recent form at Swansea has sparked talk of an international recall for the first time since 2018. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Obafemi's recent form at Swansea has sparked talk of an international recall for the first time since 2018. Photo: Sportsfile

Swansea City’s Irish-born striker Michael Obafemi has taken a risk with his international career by refusing a call-up for an U-21 qualifier this month as he only wants to play at senior level.

Obafemi (21) is enjoying a purple patch with his club – scoring four times in his last eight games for Swansea – form which sparked talk of an international recall for a player who has not been involved with the senior side since his debut, under Martin O’Neill, in 2018.

After that cap he dropped into the U-21 squad, playing five times (2019-’20), and is still eligible at that level.

But U-21 team manager Jim Crawford says Obafemi declined the chance to feature in their qualifying game in Sweden in two weeks’ time.

Senior boss Stephen Kenny – a former U-21 manager – is due to name his senior squad for the Belgium/Lithuania double-header on Friday and it’s unclear if Obafemi’s decision to reject an U-21 call will affect his chances at senior level.

“Michael has made it clear to us before that he sees himself as a senior international player. It’s unfortunate from an U-21s perspective but I’ve had a conversation with his agent and that’s where it’s at at the minute,” says Crawford, who named a 21-man squad for the Sweden tie, with prospects like Evan Ferguson (Brighton), Festy Ebosele and Eiran Cashin (both Derby County) included.

“The last thing I said to the agent was that if he ever feels that he wants to come to the U-21s, don’t hesitate to call because we’ll have a conversation around that. In his own eyes, I think Michael sees himself as a senior player.”

Crawford says it’s up to Kenny to decide if refusing an U-21 call will damage the player’s status, but Crawford feels Obafemi, who has battled numerous injuries, would have benefited from taking part in recent U-21 camps.

“It’s something that would have stood to him if he’d gone and played with the U-21s. International football can be different. It’s more tactical. But he chose not to. That was his decision. His agent was honest with me about that and I can appreciate that. If he’s scoring goals with Swansea surely now he comes under the radar of Stephen,” he added.

Crawford is pleased, though, to recall striker Mipo Odubeko, who is in line for his first Ireland cap in three years after the West Ham player, on loan to Doncaster, skipped U-21 duty last year to focus on his club career.

Crawford is also excited about the potential of Derby County pair Ebosele and Cashin, with defender Cashin, who qualifies through an Irish grandparent, set to win his first competitive cap.

Crawford’s assistant John O’Shea is in regular contact with Derby boss Wayne Rooney – his former team-mate.

“What’s happened at Derby has given Festy an opportunity to play first-team football, I have been there in their stadium and you get a feel about somebody by the crowd that’s around you. Every time he got on the ball there was a real anticipation,” Crawford added.

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