Back in November 2018, then-Southampton striker Michael Obafemi won his first Republic of Ireland senior cap aged 18.

Fast forward to the present and no other caps have followed. However, given his recent form for Swansea where he has scored six goals in his last ten, the youngster seemed to be playing himself into contention for involvement in Ireland's upcoming friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania, especially in light of Adam Idah's season-ending injury and Aaron Connolly's eventual absence.

That was until last Friday's squad announcement when Stephen Kenny opened up about the player's stance and explained that Obafemi would not be linking up with the set-up for now due to concerns about the impact his current workload would have in regard to triggering hamstring injuries.

"He's never had what he's had before, a run of games, and he feels his load is so heavy, he's concerned about re-injuring himself coming into the international team and trying to train every day and play and play again," Kenny said, also reiterating the player's commitment to representing Ireland again in the future.

Obafemi will continue to work with Swansea's physios whilst the Irish squad builds towards the Nations League campaign with the two friendlies.

His decision to forgo a call-up on this occasion was a topic of discussion on this week's RTÉ Soccer Podcast with ex-Ireland and Tottenham defender Stephen Kelly offering his view.

Kelly feels the positive from the situation is that there is ongoing dialogue between manager and player which leaves the door open.

"I think the fact he's having a conversation with Stephen Kenny seems positive for him to be in the squad in the future," he said.

"It bodes well for us that he will be back involved at some point."

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Kelly added that Obafemi's youth buys him time and also described his concern about avoiding aggravating any past injury issues as something he can "completely understand".

But taking any opportunity to fulfil an international call-up is something Kelly feels would be advisable.

"There comes a point in your career where you have to be able to play week-in week-out and that involves playing for your country, and you often get a week or two off in the summer and that's it," he continued.

"But your career is short and playing for your country is such a privilege and such an honour. You've got to make the most of it. Maybe this might be the right time and the fact that it is one of the first seasons when he's played consecutive week-in week-out.

"But the fact that they're having a conversation, the fact he's still talking to him in the future going forward and form will be key. If he's playing and he scoring goals, he'll absolutely have a chance of playing for us.

"It's just going to be down to his decision if he wants to or not. That's where for me there's a bit of a grey area. You have to commit to it. Playing for Ireland is one of the highlights, one of the best things I've ever done in my life and it's such a privilege so take those opportunities and don't let them go and that would be my advice to him."

Kelly touched on his own time as a Boys In Green player between 2006 and 2014 and how he balanced club and international commitments when he picked up knocks along the way.

"I would often go to Ireland and know I'd have a knock and still go just because it's Ireland and most people feel that way about playing for their country and I would have put Ireland ahead of club to some extent," he said.

"I look at Seamus Coleman. He's not having the best of times at Everton but I know he'll love coming into the Ireland camp because that would be a sense of relief and a change of scenery for him that will benefit him and his mentality and everything.

"For Obafemi, I think he needs to get to that point where Ireland becomes a passion and becomes enjoyable and if you're not in the squad, you're not going to get that sense of how enjoyable it is and how much it means to represent this country.

"I'm sure he could have come in and had a conversation and said, 'Listen, play me for 45 (minutes) in one of these games'. I'm sure that conversation could have been had so it's disappointing.

"But they are talking, they are communicating, nothing is dead and buried. There is scope for him to come in the future but I think it's going to be down to his desire to actually want to play for us."

Former Ireland Under-21 cap Karl Sheppard also shared his view on Obafemi's status and said "if it was me and I'm getting a call-up, even if I know I'm not 100%, you'd be going in, you'd be seeing the physios there and you'd be showing that you're going to be a part of this.

"To rule yourself out so you can stay at home with your own physios probably won't sit too well not just with Stephen Kenny and their physios but with a few of the senior players in the squad. They might be thinking, we maybe need to give him a call and just get him on board."

Listen to the RTÉ Soccer podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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