Every reason to get excited about Brighton's two Irish debutants
"For the lads who have got minutes tonight, it was really important and they will be better for the experience."
It did not take Evan Ferguson long to make his presence felt at Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion. On Tuesday, Ferguson and fellow Ireland underage football prospect Andrew Moran both made their senior debuts in a 2-0 win over Cardiff City.
Brighton beat a Cardiff side managed by Mick McCarthy. For a long time, McCarthy fostered young Irish talent at clubs like Sunderland, Wolves and Ipswich. Brighton boss Graham Potter [quoted above] now looks to be the manager doing wonders for the professional football hopes of the next generation of Irish starlets.
Back in June 2019, with Bohemians trailing 1-0 to Chelsea in a pre-season friendly, Ferguson came off the bench for his senior debut. He was only 14.
If the occasion may have fazed 99.97% of us, Ferguson was completely at home. He had a few nice touches, linked up well with his teammates and had a nice step-over that drew in a defender and made space for Eric Molloy to slot home an equaliser.
It was only a matter of time before some of the big English sides started making enquiries of the St Kevin's Boys school-boys prospect. Brighton initially had a deal where they would let Ferguson stay on at Bohs for a while longer but, so impressed were they with his talent and potential, that they got him over at the start of this year.
"His talent would have been fairly obvious to those watching," St. Kevin's Boys' Director of Football, Ken Donohue told us back in 2019. "He's just a proper footballer. He's only 14 but he's six foot tall and can play up front but he can also play in the midfield."
Evan Ferguson came on in the 81st minute, in the win over Cardiff, for Brighton midfielder, and Zambia international, Enock Mwepu. The Meath native, who has already lined out several times for Brighton's U23 team, was the second Irish debutant of the night.
Earlier in the game, 17-year-old midfielder Andrew Moran came on for Scottish teenager Marc Leonard and helped Brighton see out the game from their 2-0 position. Moran was signed from Bray Wanderers, along with teammate Leigh Kavanagh, and both penned professional contracts earlier this summer.
Unbelievable to make my debut for this club, A night i’ll never forget 🙌💙 https://t.co/rHf8OWYLU9
— Andrew Moran (@AndrewMorannn) August 24, 2021
To see Ferguson and Moran make their senior debuts so soon into their stints at Brighton shows how much Potter and the Brighton coaches rate them, and it bodes well for the future. James Furlong, a 19-year-old Irish defender, was named on the bench but did not see minutes in the third round win.
Brighton currently have Shane Duffy, Jayson Molumby and Aaron Connolly in their senior squad, with the teenage quartet mostly lining out in U23 action and cup games.
Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele (27) was the oldest player from his side and he had the honour of captaining them to victory.
"The lads’ performance was so good," he commented. "There has to be a lot of proud families and people in the club of all of the young boys who played.
"They were so brave in how they played, and there were times when it was impossible to build from the back and find the spare man, but they showed so much character to deal with it. We fought like dogs, and in fairness, we made some great chances and on another night, we could have scored more."
Now into their fifth season in the top flight, with two wins from their opening two Premier League games of the season, and youngsters stepping up on cup duty, Brighton feel their future prospects are strong. Given the heavy Irish presence there, fans on this side of the water will be hoping that is the case.