Evan Ferguson an injury doubt for Ireland ahead of U-21 showdown



Evan Ferguson is the only injury concern for Ireland’s U-21s ahead of their Euro 2023 play-off second-leg in Israel on Tuesday evening (6.15).

he 17-year-old levelled Friday’s first-leg with a terrific second-half header, his first goal at U-21 level, but did not take part in training on Sunday due to an ankle issue.

The play-off stands at 1-1, with extra-time and penalties also a possibility in Tel Aviv, as Jim Crawford’s side aims to become the first Irish team to qualify for a major tournament at the age grade.

“We’re nursing Evan at the minute but he should be ok,” Crawford said.

“He came off the other night and was fatigued towards the end of the game. I wasn’t aware of a knock on his ankle when we took him off. It’s not serious and we will monitor him today. He has unbelievable potential. He’s been excellent since the first day he’s come in, got a fantastic physical presence and a really good first touch. He’s a special talent.”

Ireland U-21 captain Conor Coventry also lauded the former Bohemians striker, and backs him to have a successful future in the game.

“You forget how young he is when you look at him,” Coventry said.

“He’s so good physically. To be playing at this level at his age, you’ve got to be a top player. He’s a really important part of the group and everyone loves having him here.”

The Boys in Green will train on Monday evening at the 29,400 capacity Bloomfield Stadium in 31C heat, with Crawford expected to make some changes for the second-leg.

“I think we’ll have to freshen it up,” the Ireland U-21 boss said.

“I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say that, because I think the effort that was put in (in the first-leg). The outputs back it up. We know it would be very hard for players to go again, so we might have to freshen one or two positions.

“It’s also a measure of the confidence we have. Players are picked for the Irish U-21s because of their ability and their form. It wouldn’t stop me from giving somebody an opportunity that deserves it.”

Israel’s U-21s are expected to call some senior players down to feature in the second leg. Crawford views the decision as a compliment to his side, who he says have nothing to fear as they stand on the edge of history.

“I think it’s a compliment to our performance on Friday that they need the senior players,” Crawford added.

“The players they are bringing down have played in the campaign already so it doesn’t faze us. I think we can play a little better than we did on Friday, as good a performance as it was. I do think we have another couple of levels to go, and hopefully we can go there on Tuesday.”

“It would mean everything,” Crawford replied, when asked how it would feel to qualify for Romania and Georgia next summer.

“When you spend every day thinking about it and how to prepare for windows. We have had bumps in the road, but we never lost belief. We said at the start of every window, ‘let’s go and create history’. Now it’s about getting to the next step.”

Coventry added that getting over the line in Tel Aviv would be ‘hard to put into words,’ but is fully aware of the challenge Israel will pose on their home patch.

“I think qualifying is something that’s always been in our minds, we have been dreaming about for a year now,” said the West Ham midfielder, who holds the record for most U-21 caps.

“It would mean so much to everyone, it’s hard to put into words. It’s going to be a tough game, we’re under no illusions about that. We know they’re a good side. They started really well (on Friday) and their shape and some rotations caused us problems. But I feel like we’ve got enough to go through.”



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