Evan Ferguson an injury concern for Israel play-off

Striker could miss second leg of Euro 2023 decider against Israel

Evan Ferguson has emerged as an injury doubt ahead of Tuesday’s Under-21 European Championships qualification play-off, second leg against Israel in Tel Aviv.

The 17-year-old Brighton striker, who scored the crucial equaliser in Tallaght last Friday, is struggling to shake off an ankle injury.

“Evan has a slight knock and that’s about it,” revealed Ireland manager Jim Crawford. “He didn’t train yesterday with the group. We’re nursing him at the minute but he should be okay.

“He came off the other night because of the shift that he put in. He fatigued towards the end of the game, and I wasn’t aware of a knock on his ankle when we took him off. It’s not serious and we will just monitor him today.”


If Ferguson fails to recover, Port Vale’s Mipo Odubeko could come into the attack alongside Aaron Connolly, who excelled in the 1-1 first leg following his demotion from the senior panel.

“You have to be careful at times when you speak about [Ferguson],” continued Crawford on the Dublin teenager who made his debut for Bohemians at 14. “He has unbelievable potential, he really has. He’s still young. He has a long way to go in terms of reaching his ceiling. But he’s been excellent since the first day he’s come in [at 16]. He’s got a fantastic physical presence, a really good first touch, he can score goals as he showed the other night.

“He’s a special talent, it’s high potential at this point in time. I do know the club have a development plan for him, which is encouraging. And again, he’s come from a really good family, so I can’t see him straying too far from that development plan, that’s for sure.”

In reaction to Connolly’s impact for the under-21s, Israel have rerouted three senior internationals - Doron Leidner, Eden Kartsev and Liel Abada – as they attempt to deny Ireland reaching their first ever tournament at this age grade.

“I think it’s a compliment to our performance on Friday that they needed the senior team players,” Crawford added. “But it doesn’t faze us. It is in the back of my mind that it is a compliment with their manager needing to dip into the senior team. But I think we can play a little better than we did on Friday evening, 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.”

The match is being shown live on the RTÉ Player due to a schedule clash with the senior international against Armenia at the Aviva stadium going out live on RTÉ Two.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent