It was a Saturday night when Jim Crawford heard about the online racist abuse Jonathan Afolabi received on Instagram.

Earlier that day, Afolabi had scored an injury-time leveller for Dundee to send their Scottish Cup tie with non-league Bonnyrigg Rose to extra-time. Dundee went on to win the game.

When Afolabi, on loan from Celtic, turned on his phone afterwards, his inbox was full of explicitly racist messages. The Dublin-born striker didn't get angry. But he did share the messages publicly. 

He was backed up with widespread support. Dundee and the FAI both condemned the comments as "vile", Celtic said the incident was "abhorrent" and the Scottish Police launched an investigation.

Sadly, Afolabi's experience is far from isolated. 

Fellow Irish internationals Callum Robinson and Cyrus Christie have both been targeted by bigots, while on Thursday Manchester United slated the "mindless idiots" who racially abused Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial after the Red Devils' loss to Sheffield United.

The Premier League club has called for stronger measures "to prevent this kind of behaviour".

Republic of Ireland Under-21 boss Crawford meanwhile recalls being apprehensive about calling Afolabi after his experience. But he says the player did not allow himself to be unsettled. 

"I heard about it on the Saturday night and spoke to Jonathan the following morning," Crawford told RTÉ Sport.

"We'd quite an extensive chat about it. The basic message that came from Jonathan was, the comments didn't affect him or bother him at all.

"What he did want to do was get the message out that there are some idiots who are not educated enough to realise that we're all the same.

"Thankfully for himself it didn't hit him that hard because when I got the message on the Saturday night I said right I'll ring him first thing Sunday morning."

Afolabi is one of a very promising group that remains eligible for the Under-21s ahead of their UEFA European Championship campaign.

Gavin Bazunu, Nathan Collins, Lee O'Connor, Conor Coventry, Luca Connell, Troy Parrott, Michael Obafemi, Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah, Jason Knight, Will Smallbone and Joe Hodge can technically be summoned by Crawford, though the manager is fully aware that many of those names are likely to play significant roles for Stephen Kenny's senior team.

Afolabi is one that should stay with him for the foreseeable future though, his obvious potential requiring a little more finessing before he can be considered for the step up.

Crawford has nonetheless been impressed with his maturity and courage, adding: "I thought it would have hurt him but certainly not. When you know Jonathan, he's a fantastic character.

"He's a player with unbelievable ability, but I know these external factors that affect people.

"I thought it was very brave of him to get the message out there and let it be known that there are racist incidents happening in football. I think it's important he got the message out."