Football | Irish youngsters star in Carabao Cup

It was a big week at club level for a lot of young Republic of Ireland players.

The midweek Carabao Cup fixtures offered managers the chance to give fringe players an opportunity, and several Irish players seized their chance to impress.

Michael Obafemi bagged the only goal of the game as Southampton beat Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Ireland international tapped home the second senior goal of his career in the 57th minute from Nathan Redmond’s cross to send the Saints into the next round.

Obafemi’s goal makes him club’s youngest scorer in the competition since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who was 16) scored against Bournemouth in 2010.

The teenage striker will now be aiming to break into Ralph Hasenhuttl first eleven, and to continue his rapid emergence at international level.

Aaron Connolly also starred for Brighton in the Seagull’s away win over Bristol Rovers.

The 19-year-old Galway native scored his first senior goal for the club on his way to collecting the man of the match award in Graham Potter’s side’s 2-1 victory over their League One opposition.

Connolly was the star for Brighton’s U23 side last season, and picked up the Premier League 2 Player of the Season award after an excellent campaign.

The underage Ireland international – who impressed at the Toulon Tournament for Stephen Kenny’s U21 side – opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tidy finish from close range to mark his first start with a goal.

Tom Nicholls drew Bristol level, but veteran striker Glen Murray scored an injury-time winner to seal Brighton’s place in the next round.

Josh Barrett also enjoyed a night to remember.

The 21-year-old scored twice in Reading’s 4-2 win away to Plymouth Argyle, with the Royals coming from behind twice to seal victory.

In the 37th minute, Barrett cut inside and fired a low strike into the far bottom corner to draw Reading level after Ryan Taylor had given the hosts the lead.

Jose Baxter then restored Plymouth’s lead before Barrett restored parity once more with a stunning strike.

Barrett – who has featured for the Boys in Green at U17, U19 and U21 level – cut inside off the left and curled a sumptuous strike into the far top corner.

Yakou Meite then gave Reading the lead with a penalty, before adding his second late on to make it 4-2.

Barrett has often been required to show patience at the Championship club, but his performance last night could give him the momentum to become a regular fixture in the side.

Irish goalkeeper Mark Travers – who made his debut with a man of the match performance against Spurs last season – was the hero for Bournemouth in their penalty shootout victory over Forest Green.

The League Two club took Eddie Howe’s men the distance, with the cup tie heading to penalties after a scoreless draw.

Travers, 20, saved all three of Forest Green’s opening three penalties – from Joseph Mills, Kevin Dawson and James Morton – to seal a quick shootout win for Bournemouth.

Joshua King, Dominic Solanke and Philip Billing found the net from 12 yards for the Premier League side, with Jordan Ibe the only Cherries player to miss his spot kick.

It was also a big night for teenage striker Adam Idah.

The underage Ireland international made his senior Norwich debut against Crawley Town, with star striker Teemu Pukki rested.

However, Crawley produced a shock upset, beating the Premier League side 1-0 to earn their first ever scalp against top-flight opposition.

Idah had several good chances to open the scoring for the Canaries, but Daniel Farke’s men were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal by the League Two side.

To make matters worse, Beryly Lubala’s winning strike for Crawley was deflected into his own net by Idah.

Obafemi, Connolly and Idah have since been named in Stephen Kenny’s U21 squad for the upcoming UEFA qualifier against Armenia.

Elsewhere in the cup, Ireland international Conor Hourihane scored twice for Aston Villa in their 6-1 win over Crewe Alexandria.