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Ireland U-21 Andrew Moran lauds clubmate Evan Ferguson ahead of senior debut

Both made their senior debut for the Seagulls on the same night – an EFL Cup win against Cardiff City in August 2021.

Andrew Moran poses for a portrait during a Republic of Ireland U21's media conference at Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Seán O'

Brighton midfielder Andrew Moran admits the rapid rise of club team-mate Evan Ferguson has come as a shock and believes his success can inspire the next generation of Irish talent.

Moran has reported for Ireland U-21 duty this week ahead of Sunday’s friendly against Iceland, while Ferguson will make his first senior start against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

Both made their senior debut for the Seagulls on the same night – an EFL Cup win against Cardiff City in August 2021.

Ferguson has since gone on to net seven goals in 16 first-team appearances this term while midfielder Moran is featuring regularly for Brighton’s U-23s, and made his Premier League debut against Everton last January.

Evan Ferguson poses for a portrait during an Ireland squad session at Castleknock Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Moran (19) also lined out with Ferguson (18) at U-21 level in 2021 and reflected on the striker’s impressive rise in recent months.

“He’s a freak,” laughs Moran, who will be hoping for his first U-21 start in Turner’s Cross this Sunday.

“It’s so good for us. Evan is flying at club level. It shows if you’re doing the right thing you will get chances. It’s really good for us to hear stories like that.

“How quick it has happened is probably surprising, but everyone can see how talented he is. He’s such a good player, so good and for his age so physically able. I always knew he would be a joke.

“Against Cardiff, I came on at 68 minutes and Evan came on at 81 minutes. I beat him to it (senior debut). He was a year younger but we won’t mention that.

“Looking at Evan, I can’t imagine being older than him, it’s mad. Even at Brighton, it’s the same thing.

"He’s impressing in training and we have a manager (Roberto De Zerbi) where he doesn’t really care about age, if you are good enough he will play you. It’s definitely inspiring.”

Teenage sensation Evan Ferguson starts against Latvia in Dublin tonight ahead of next Monday's opening Euro 2024 qualifier against beaten World Cup finalists France. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

While anticipation is building towards Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifying opener against France on Monday, a new era begins for Jim Crawford’s U-21s. Thirteen previously uncapped U-21 internationals are in the new-look squad, who will be hoping to go one step further after September’s Euro play-off defeat to Israel.

“It was a really good group to be in last year,” added Moran, who won two caps against Luxembourg in the previous campaign.

“They couldn’t qualify in the end but we’ll hope to try and do the same this year, get as close as they did and hopefully go one step further. It was definitely a step up because I had never played U-19s before that. I went from U-17s, then we had Covid, then straight to the U-21s. It was really good to be in and around the lads you learn so much from them.”

Although it’s a mostly new group, there are still some players who featured in the last campaign, including former Bray Wanderers midfielder Moran. The Dubliner is excited by the group Crawford has assembled, and is keen to get off to a winning start this weekend.

“There are loads of lads I have played U-19s with last year,” he added.

“We had the likes of Tayo (Adaramola), Bosun (Lawal) and Cian (Hayes). We did really well and could have qualified out of our group in the Euro elite stages. All up the age groups you would have encountered these boys before so it’s not completely new. But there are a few of the older lads like Tom (Cannon) and Festy (Ebosele) who I’ve never really played with before.

“It’s a really exciting group so hopefully we can do something really good. There are a lot of new faces but lads like Joe Hodge too who would have played in that Israel (play-off) game, players with experience like that. I think we have a good blend.

“I think we are a good team so why not try and qualify? I know we have never done it before but we’ll give it a good go.”

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