NEW sign­ing Joe O’Brien-Whit­marsh might admit to being mocked by his speed­i­er broth­er but he has made a fast start at Saints.

Irish mid­field­er O’Brien-Whit­marsh was on the radar of Saints acad­e­my recruiters long before he signed on the dot­ted line. 

Southamp­ton’s acad­e­my under­went an over­haul last sum­mer and new staff put for­ward the 18 year old among their first tar­gets. 

They were not alone in that with the likes of Aston Vil­la, Leeds Unit­ed and Ever­ton also keen to add the mid­field­er to their acad­e­my. 

O’Brien-Whit­marsh’s promise has been obvi­ous with goals in both of his last two appear­ances for the under-21s side. 

“It’s an unbe­liev­able feel­ing, I love scor­ing goals so it was nice to get the mon­key off the back,” he told the Dai­ly Echo

Daily Echo: Joe O'Brien-Whitmarsh has made five appearances for Saints under-21sJoe O’Brien-Whit­marsh has made five appear­ances for Saints under-21s (Image: Southamp­ton FC)

“I haven’t been here too long but I have played a few games so it was nice to get off the mark.

“I had like a mini pre-sea­son first, it didn’t last as long as it was sup­posed to but I need­ed a few weeks to get up to speed.

“I was ready to play quick­er than I thought. I spent a few weeks train­ing with the team but also doing a lot more by myself with the strength and con­di­tion­ing.”

That mini pre-sea­son fol­lowed the young­ster hav­ing around six weeks off at the con­clu­sion of the League of Ire­land sea­son.

O’Brien-Whit­marsh was already a reg­u­lar in mid­field for Cork City before he signed at Saints to con­tin­ue his devel­op­ment in Jan­u­ary.

The youth inter­na­tion­al made 23 appear­ances last sea­son for Cork but was unable to stave off rel­e­ga­tion. 

His side were beat­en by AFC Water­ford — the club of next Saints tar­get Romeo Akachuk­wu — in the Novem­ber play­off. 

“The League of Ire­land is a lot more phys­i­cal, there’s a lot more tack­les,” he explained. 

“Since I have been play­ing under-21s I don’t think I have been prop­er­ly tack­led. In Ire­land, you’ve got 27 or 28 year old men hit­ting you.

“That is going to be a bit dif­fer­ent but the ball moves so much quick­er here, the game is a lot sharp­er and a lot more tech­ni­cal and I love that.

“This is also my first time liv­ing away from home but I am liv­ing in a house with Ollie Wright and set­tled in real­ly well, he’s a love­ly guy.

“I still have a bit more to go to get to the first team here but it clos­es the gap phys­i­cal­ly,” O’Brien-Whit­marsh con­tin­ued. 

“You know what it’s like to play against men, you know what it’s like to need three points and you know what it’s like to play in front of a crowd.

“Obvi­ous­ly, it wouldn’t be 30,000 but it’s a decent crowd — step­ping back into acad­e­my foot­ball, it’s about improv­ing tech­ni­cal­ly and tac­ti­cal­ly.

Daily Echo: Joe O'Brien-Whitmarsh is targeting a senior team breakthroughJoe O’Brien-Whit­marsh is tar­get­ing a senior team break­through (Image: Southamp­ton FC)

“It will take time to be ready for a much high­er lev­el men’s game but I think I can do it — that is the rea­son I joined.

“There is a good path­way and they play good foot­ball which suits me, I have to be patient and get bet­ter but I will work hard to do that.”

Although a move had been bub­bling away under the sur­face, O’Brien-Whit­marsh insists his full focus was on per­form­ing for his for­mer club.

“I know all that hap­pens in the back­ground but my agent is bril­liant with all that and I just focus on play­ing foot­ball,” he added.

“I let it go on in the back­ground and I don’t want to hear about it. My focus last sea­son was on try­ing to keep Cork City up.” 

In O’Brien-Whit­marsh, Saints have picked up an intel­li­gent, two-foot­ed attack­ing mid­field­er with a hunger for scor­ing and cre­at­ing. 

His ear­ly expe­ri­ence in men’s foot­ball could stand him in good stead for mak­ing the step up — a step that few ever man­age.

It was O’Brien-Whit­marsh’s light­ning-quick pace that sur­prised some observers fol­low­ing his first few appear­ances. 

Daily Echo: Joe O'Brien-Whitmarsh was playing for Republic of Ireland's under-15s four years agoJoe O’Brien-Whit­marsh was play­ing for Repub­lic of Ire­land’s under-15s four years ago (Image: Southamp­ton FC)

That was a sur­prise to the play­er him­self when those com­ments were relayed back to him. 

O’Brien-Whit­marsh quipped: “My old­er broth­er mocks me about it as he’s a bit quick­er but I will take that as a com­pli­ment.

“I prob­a­bly run with the ball quick­er than I do with­out! That’s good to hear, though.” 

O’Brien-Whit­marsh adds to the Irish among the ranks at Sta­ple­wood, with senior inter­na­tion­als Gavin Bazunu, Will Small­bone and Ryan Man­ning. 

Bazunu — who has been Ire­land’s num­ber one — told the Dai­ly Echo he would arrange to meet with O’Brien-Whit­marsh once he arrived. 

Has he done that? The young­ster respond­ed: “I haven’t spoke to him yet but it’s not his fault!

“We tried to organ­ise it but the rate the first team are play­ing games they have bare­ly been in.

“I haven’t seen him yet but he has tried to organ­ise it and I am sure I will see him soon.”