No-nonsense Evan Ferguson aims to force way into Ireland's Euro plans

The 18-year-old striker reflects on his first taste of senior international football and making an impression on his teammates.

Evan Ferguson with pupils from Scoil Chiaráin during the launch of Football for All - Futsal in the Yard programme.
Evan Ferguson with pupils from Scoil Chiaráin during the launch of Football for All - Futsal in the Yard programme.
Image: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

EVAN FERGUSON HOPES his no-nonsense approach to becoming a senior Ireland international will stand him in good stead when the serious business of European Championship qualifying begins in March.

The Brighton & Hove Albion teenager made his debut off the bench during the Norway defeat at Aviva Stadium and followed that up with another cameo in the 1-0 win over Malta on Sunday.

While he missed out on breaking Robbie Keane’s record as his country’s youngest ever scorer at senior men’s level, Ferguson impressed a number of his peers with his application and attitude over the course of the camp, something Chiedozie Ogbene elaborated on last week.

“He’s a big lad and he’s eager. He’s doing really well. He’s very physical and works really hard so I’m hoping for great things from him,” the Rotherham United striker explained.

“And do you know what I like about him? It’s the way he’s training. Obviously, he is grateful for where he is but he’s taking his opportunity, he’s not shying out of tackles and he’s getting stuck in. I think that is going to play a big part for his career.”

Ferguson, speaking at the FAI’s Football For All Futsal In The Yard event in Glasnevin earlier today, admitted that showing manager Stephen Kenny that he was not daunted by the opportunity was at the forefront of his thoughts, as he now aims to push for a place when France visit Dublin next spring.

“You have to when you are going into the squad. It’s only a week [long] camp so you have to put yourself about and try make an impression on the gaffer.

“You don’t know, like. You just don’t what he is thinking. I just tried to come in and train well. I thought I did alright in training, so I was just lucky enough to get the chance. I was buzzing with that.

“I think everybody wants to be involved in it (the Euro qualifiers). You just have to see how your form is and try to keep pushing on. He is going to pick the squad he thinks is best to get us qualified.”

Kenny called Ferguson the day before the squad for the two friendlies was announced to inform him he had made the final cut from the provisional list.

But when it came to being introduced from the bench in the 88th minute against Norway, there wasn’t as much time to soak in the moment.

“It was an unbelievable experience. Growing up, everyone goes to the games, watches the game at the Aviva so to come and play at the Aviva was an unbelievable feeling for me and my family.

“It just went very quickly, that’s all I remember. He (Kenny) just said ‘right, you’re coming on’. The shin guards were on and the next minute or so I was on the pitch. I didn’t really have much time to think about it. I just had to get on there and try to do something.

“I think you’re just so focused on the game and in the moment. After you are looking around and seeing people chanting and this and that. There is no other feeling like it. You saw it growing up for years and years. Then you’re like ‘I’m actually doing it’. You get taken back.”

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In Ferguson’s case it was to his visits to the Dublin 4 venue as a child, some of which came flooding back in the short time he managed on the pitch.

“Parking about 20 minutes away and having to walk in. Walking over that bridge, that’s all I remember. Wearing the jersey in, everyone chanting and that. Then, do ye know the man with the bell? Just hearing that, and then when you hear it when you’re playing it’s like ‘you’re actually doing something’.”

Had Ferguson found the net against either Norway or Malta he would have eclipsed Keane’s long-standing record, but creating history was not on his mind.

“I didn’t see anything of that. I didn’t know if it was true or not. I was hoping to come on and score, but it didn’t go in.”

Time is on his side to make a more lasting impact.

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