Evan Ferguson, fresh from scoring two goals to help Brighton progress to the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday, will make his first start for the Republic of Ireland against Latvia on Wednesday night at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny confirmed the 18-year-old’s third cap, following brief cameos last year against Norway and Malta, will be a start and that he will spearhead the Irish attack.
“We’ve known about Evan for a few years, coming through the system in Ireland with Bohemians and the underage international sides,” said Kenny. “At 18 years of age he has shown that he is ready to come into the team, and he’ll make his first start tomorrow night.”
Kenny also confirmed that Adam Idah remains with the group despite suffering a foot injury for Norwich City last week.
“We are hopeful Adam will be involved later in the week for the game against France.”
The World Cup runners-up come to Dublin next Monday, three days after their European Championships qualification opener against the Netherlands in Paris, with reports of disquiet in camp.
Le Figaro published a story that Antoine Griezmann is considering his international future after manager Didier Deschamps named Kylian Mbappé as the new national captain.
Matt Doherty, meanwhile, has described his former Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte as “one of the greatest managers of all time” following the Italian’s direct and sustained criticism of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, his players and the club culture being the antithesis of a trophy-gathering enterprise.
“Look, I hope he stays for a long time at Tottenham,” said Doherty, who left Spurs for Atlético Madrid in January. “He’s an unbelievable coach, an unbelievable manager. He won’t say anything in the press that he won’t say to his players, he’s completely honest with his players, has the passion for the whole club.
“So, for me, I hope Tottenham stick by him and hold on to him for as long as possible. He is one of the best managers of all time.”
Doherty is also expected to start against Latvia despite getting just 12 minutes of pitch time since joining Atlético.
“It is frustrating at times, but I have learned to deal with it,” said the 31-year-old full back. “I was at Wolves for a long time where I played every second of every game, I am sure there were players at that time who were trying to get in and were in the same boat. Over time I’ve become more experienced and been able to deal with it a lot better.
“I am there until the end of the season and I am just using it as a learning experience, I am improving by training with world-class players every day. I am using the six months I have there to try and get better, to try and understand the game better and improve my overall game.
“I feel sharp. I am training all the time, I think sometimes when you’re playing with top players all the time that keeps you sharp. For me it’s not an issue, especially with the game tomorrow to lead into it. My brain will be sharp enough to cope with anything.”