Evan Ferguson’s hopes of enhancing his blossoming reputation against France and the Netherlands have been dashed after he was ruled out of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 double-header.
The 18-year-old Brighton striker, who plundered a hat-trick in Saturday’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Newcastle, has been forced to withdraw from the squad with a new injury, and his absence represents a major blow to manager Stephen Kenny.
Ferguson, who has six senior caps and two goals to his name, might have given the French and the Dutch cause for concern ahead of this weekend’s Group B encounters in Paris and Dublin, but instead Kenny will have to come up with a new plan as Ireland attempt to keep their campaign alive.
𝗦𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗱 𝗨𝗽𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗲 | Ferguson ruled out of @EURO2024 qualifiers
The @OfficialBHAFC striker has been ruled out following an injury sustained in the win over Newcastle United
After an assessment from the Irish medical team, he has been ruled out of both matches pic.twitter.com/c7e5EJDgi5
— Ireland Football (@IrelandFootball) September 5, 2023
The news was confirmed in a Football Association of Ireland statement on Tuesday which said: “Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson has been ruled out of the two Euro 2024 qualifiers against France and the Netherlands.
“The Brighton forward sustained a knee injury in the 3-1 home win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
“Ferguson reported for international duty on Sunday, but after assessment from the Ireland medical team, has been ruled out of both fixtures.”
Kenny faces the task of forming a new-look frontline for Thursday night’s clash with Didier Deschamps’ group leaders – who won 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium in March – at the Parc des Princes with Norwich’s Adam Idah, recalled Hull striker Aaron Connolly, Luton’s Chiedozie Ogbene and Will Keane of Preston the remaining specialists at his disposal.
The four have five Ireland goals between them with all but one coming from Ogbene, who was man of the match when the French won a tight affair in Dublin after Benjamin Pavard pounced on a rare error by Josh Cullen to score the only goal.
Realistically, the Republic need to win at least one of the two games – they host the Netherlands on Sunday – to stand any chance of emerging from the group and while that may be a tall order, the former Rotherham man for one remains positive.
Ogbene said: “We’re confident. If we can increase the intensity we played with at the Aviva, we will always give ourselves a right chance, it doesn’t matter who we play. Hopefully we can get the rewards for our efforts early on and have something to hang on to.
“We had great chances and just couldn’t… the keeper had a very good night. We were stunned by that long-range effort from Pavard.
“That’s the difference at this level: one chance and one goal changes everything. Hopefully now the fortune will fall in our hands and we can start with that intensity and get the reward for our efforts.
“Who knows what will happen?”
There was one crumb of comfort for Kenny as the squad boarded their flight to the French capital with Sheffield United defender John Egan able to take his seat on the plane after limping out of the Blades’ 2-2 draw with Everton at the weekend.