Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dublin-born striker Shodipo eyes progress

Olamide Shodipo. Pic: Sportsfile
Olamide Shodipo. Pic: Sportsfile

With an average age of 30, the three-strong strike force in Ireland's squad for the World Cup double-header over the next week is clearly in need of fresh blood.

Where to find a young striker who is eligible to play for Ireland and can play at a high level is a question that will dog the Irish game for some time.

QPR's teenage forward Olamide Shodipo, hoping to add to his collection of Ireland U21 caps when the Republic face Serbia in Waterford in a Euro qualifier on Friday, knows he's not yet the finished article.

But the Dublin-born, London-raised player clearly has high hopes of building on his bright start this season and emerging as an option at senior level for Ireland.

"I'm aware that Ireland need creative and attacking players and I am looking to take the opportunity when it comes," he says.

"I'm happy to be over here to play for Ireland and hopefully we can get the win against Serbia with the U21s on Friday. We need to get the win, it's a shame that we didn't manage to get through and qualify, the campaign had good bits and bad bits."

Shodipo's story began back in the summer of 1997 when he was born in Dublin, to Nigerian parents, and lived in Leixlip until the family moved to London when he was a baby. But he was keen to play for Ireland. "That was always the plan," he says. "I got my first game for the Ireland U19s last year. Mark O'Toole, the FAI's scout over in England, told them about me and I was called up, but I still have family in Kildare and I like to visit them when I can.

"I thought I'd have a chance with the U21s this season and it was good to make my debut last month, I was just grateful to get out on the pitch and thankfully we won in my first game."

He played for his local club in London before QPR signed him up at the age of 15. Working his way through the ranks, he impressed manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in pre-season and has been rewarded with a seven first-team appearances.

"Jimmy has been good to me, ever since he came in and it's been a real learning curve, I have improved and become a better player," he says. "The Championship is a tough league and you get tired with two games a week but the manager looks after me, takes me out of the game if needed and he tries to manage me. Because I am young he wants to ease me into games."

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