Teenage Premier League star Evan Ferguson will make his first senior start for the Republic of Ireland against Latvia on Wednesday evening.
The 18-year-old striker, who scored twice in Brighton’s 5-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Grimsby on Sunday to take his tally to six goals in 13 appearances, will be thrown in at the deep end by manager Stephen Kenny as a reward for his blistering form.
With Norwich frontman Adam Idah also reporting an injury, Ferguson is presented with an opportunity to play himself into contention for Monday’s intensely difficult opening Euro 2024 qualifier against World Cup runners-up France.
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Kenny said: “His career is in its infancy. He’s had a great start to his Premier League career and is scoring some goals in the Premier League, the FA Cup and League Cup.
“We have known about Evan for a few years now, coming through the system in Ireland with Bohemians and coming through the underage international teams.
“At 18 years of age now, he’s showing he is ready to come into the team and he will make his first start tomorrow in the game.”
Ferguson, who played for Ireland Under-21s as a 16-year-old, was handed a debut by Kenny as a late substitute in November’s 1-0 friendly defeat by Norway, and played for 13 minutes at the end of the 1-0 win in Malta three days later.
Full-back Matt Doherty, currently playing his football in Spain with Atletico Madrid, has watched his rise from afar, but is convinced he has an exciting future ahead of him.
Doherty said: “I believe he is playing very well. I haven’t seen all of the games, but from the highlights and the goals he is scoring, he is scoring some good goals with great composure for someone who is only 18.
“Hopefully it will be the same for this camp, and not only for this camp but for him personally for the rest of the season and for the rest of his career, as I am sure he is going to have a good one.”
Kenny declined to reveal whether or not Celtic winger Mikey Johnston, who is on loan at Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes, will win his first cap after switching allegiance from Scotland.
However, he will use the game to hone his players for a daunting clash with Didier Deschamps’ men with some of them – Doherty has made just one appearance as a substitute since his move to Spain – lacking regular football.
The manager said: “We’ve a number of players who’ve not been playing regularly or who have been playing intermittently.
“Tomorrow night’s game is important for those players and for us to evaluate where they all are, and for them to make an impact themselves so they can put themselves in contention for selection against France, whether that will be as starters or players who can make an impact off the bench because we’ll need a squad next Monday.”