Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has challenged teenage striker Adam Idah to prove he is the real deal as he prepares to step on to the senior international stage.
The 19-year-old Norwich frontman has been included in new manager Kenny’s first squad for next month’s Nations League fixtures against Bulgaria and Finland having excelled both in his Under-21s squad and at younger age group level for Ireland.
Asked about Idah, who scored an eye-catching hat-trick for the Canaries in a 4-2 FA Cup third-round victory in January Kenny said: “Adam has been quite prolific for Ireland coming through the age groups.
“He’s got a lot of characteristics of a centre-forward. He can play with his back to goal – we haven’t had many players over the years for Ireland who could play with their back to goal and be genuinely quick, and he’s got genuine pace.
“If you go through our list of strikers over the years, we’ve had bigger lads who were good with their backs to goal, but not necessarily quick.
“He’s still only learning the game – he has a 2001 birth date, he’s still eligible for Under-19s. He’s shown a lot of potential and has all the attributes to be a really good centre-forward.”
Brighton midfielder Jayson Molumby who was Kenny’s Under-21s captain, has also been called up for the first time to join Tottenham striker Troy Parrott and Brighton’s Aaron Connolly in a significantly re-shaped squad compared with the Mick McCarthy era.
On Molumby, Kenny said: “I like the chaotic nature of what he brings, I think that energises the rest of the team. It will be competitive in the midfield, it’s quite a strong area for us.”
If there was joy for Idah and Molumby, there was disappointment for 20-year-old Southampton striker Michael Obafemi when he did not make the 23, to which Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick will be added after the game in Sofia.
A cryptic message on Obafemi’s official Twitter account suggested his frustration, but Kenny said: “He’s someone who hopefully has a big future with Ireland. Michael has to go into the Under-21s and do well at that level.”
While there was no place in the pool of midfielders for veteran Glenn Whelan – Kenny insisted the door was not closed on the 36-year-old – Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy did get the nod, as did Harry Arter, Shane Long and Darragh Lenihan.
Squad Announcement Bulgaria & Finland
Stephen Kenny has announced his first squad ahead of the UEFA Nations League double-header 👌
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) August 24, 2020
McCarthy has not played for his country since a 3-1 World Cup qualifier victory in Moldova in October 2016 having been plagued by injury in recent seasons, but his new international boss is convinced he has much to offer at 29.
Kenny said: “I know James hasn’t played since 2016 and there are a couple of tough years there for him with injuries, and it can be mentally tough when that happens.
“He is someone who is extremely talented. He has an exceptional range of passing. I don’t think we have utilised him in his best position a lot.
“He’s only 29 now, so some of his best performances might be ahead of him if he can stay fit.”
Squad: Darren Randolph (West Ham), Mark Travers (Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (unattached), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Shane Duffy (Brighton), John Egan (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn), James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Harry Arter (Fulham), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle), Alan Browne (Preston), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Jayson Molumby (Brighton), Robbie Brady (Burnley), Callum Robinson (Sheffield United), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke), Aaron Connolly (Brighton), Adam Idah (Norwich), Troy Parrott (Tottenham, on loan at Millwall), Shane Long (Southampton).