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Football

07th Mar 2022

Irish abroad: Michael Obafemi’s goal scoring spree reignites Ireland ambitions

Luke Jennings

Chiedozie Ogbene

Irish youngsters lit up the lower leagues over the weekend.

The Republic of Ireland’s next generation of stars impressed over the weekend in England, and some may even be in line to a call-up to Stephen Kenny’s side later this month.

Michael Obafemi and Will Keane were prolific in front of goal whilst Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Eiran Cashin turned heads in the Championship.

Meanwhile, Gavin Bazunu showed his class for Portsmouth and the Premier League may be a possibility for the 19-year-old next season.

Michael Obafemi bagged a brace for Swansea.

Obafemi was on the scoresheet as Swansea beat Coventry at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The 21-year-old scored two goals and assisted the other in an emphatic victory. The former Southampton striker has scored five goals this season, and four of them have come since the beginning of February.

Swans boss Russell Martin was full of praise for the Ireland international. “Real pace is something we’ve missed and we’ve lacked for a large part of the season,” Martin said about Obafemi.

“It’s something that scares opposition defenders. There’s no doubt about it. Pace is the worst thing to play against. I would say that being a slow centre-half.”

Taylor Gardner-Hickman rejuvenates the Baggies.

The 20-year-old was a vital part of West Brom’s midfield as they beat Hull City 2-0 at the MKM Stadium.

Gardner-Hickman, who can play at full-back or in midfield, won a penalty in the second half to help the Baggies on their way to their first victory under new manager Steve Bruce.

Bruce spoke of Garden-Hickman’s enthusiasm following full time, he said the gives them “something else” on the pitch.

“He does what a young kid does – he gives you that vital ingredient which is enthusiasm,” Bruce reasoned. “He wants to do well, he took the long way around for the applause at the finish.

“I was pleased with him, he’s been knocking on the door for a while, certainly in the month I’ve been here in training. He has given us a little something else in the middle of the pitch.”

Gardner-Hickman is English-born but has represented Ireland at Under-19 level, as he qualifies for the nation through his grandparents.

Eiran Cashin’s defensive resilience.

Derby County recorded a 2-0 win against Barnsley as they attempt to make the great escape from the relegation zone.

Irish youngster Cashin started centre-half alongside the experienced Curtis Davies. The 20-year-old produced a rock-solid performance as the Rams kept a clean sheet. The defender won 100 per cent of his tackles whilst completing 80 per cent of his passing.

Cashin has been a defensive mainstay in Pride Park over recent weeks. Wayne Rooney has provided the youngster with the opportunity to push on and break into the Ireland senior squad in 2022.

The Rams currently sit five points from safety – behind 21st placed Reading. Derby would be 15th if it wasn’t for their financial troubles, as they were deducted 21 points by the EFL.

Will Keane – goalscoring machine.

Wigan took another stride in the direction of automatic promotion from League 1 as Keane scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Wimbledon.

The Ireland forward scored his 17th goal of the season as second-placed Wigan closed the gap to four points on first-placed Rotherham, with two games in hand.

Keane declared for the Republic of Ireland in 2021 and has been capped once. The 29-year-old is having the best season of his career.

With Stephen Kenny’s side yet to cement a regular goalscorer in the side, Keane could be the answer.

Another clean sheet for Gavin Bazunu.

Manchester City’s loanee started in goals for Portsmouth as they beat Accrington Stanley 4-0 at Fratton Park. The Republic of Ireland number one made six saves during the match to cement a place in the EFL Team of the Week.

The 19-year-old’s clean sheet puts Pompey 10th in League 1. Bazunu recorded his 13th clean sheet this season, which is the most by any goalkeeper in League 1 thus far.

Portsmouth CEO Andrew Cullen has said that Bazunu is good enough to play Premier League football next season.

Pompey will surely want to secure his services for next season, but anything other than promotion could see Bazunu depart the club.

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