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Ireland boss Stephen Kenny felt no pressure to play hot-shot Evan Ferguson

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Stephen Kenny has insisted he does not feel under any pressure to select teenage sensation Evan Ferguson for the Republic of Ireland.

The 18-year-old has emerged from the Brighton ranks in thrilling fashion this season and his Premier League form was rewarded with a first senior Ireland cap in November before a goal in his maiden start for his country against Latvia in March.

Ferguson’s blossoming talent has prompted excitement back at home and he will hope for a role in Friday night’s key Euro 2024 qualifier against Greece in Athens.

But asked if the clamour to pick him was a problem, Kenny replied: “No, not at all. At the moment on recent form, he’s in the team on merit. He’s been our best forward, for sure.

“To score a goal in his first game can only give him confidence. I don’t feel any pressure, no. He’s a brilliant addition for us. I’m delighted to have him in the team.”

Ferguson started Ireland’s opening qualifier, a 1-0 home defeat by France, a game in which he and his team-mates fought a rearguard action for long periods before ultimately going down to Benjamin Pavard’s second-half strike.

Greece boss Gus Poyet is expecting a significantly different approach at the OPAP Arena – which could only be a third full as the Uruguayan attempts to lure fans back to support the national team – and Kenny did little to disabuse him of the notion.

He said: “France were a penalty shootout away from being double World Cup champions. They are undoubtedly a world-class team, a team that has a lot of world stars in it.

“This is a different game entirely. Greece are on a good run of form, they are a possession-based team as well, they get a high percentage of possession in a lot of their games, they like to dominate possession, they’re expansive.

“We’ve shown the capacity to be like that as well in a lot of games, that’s one of our strengths as well. It’s an intriguing game really.

“Is the approach different? Yes it is, so we’ll have to wait and see how that goes on Friday.”

Wigan wing-back James McClean could win his 99th cap in Athens, putting him in line to become the seventh man to win 100 for Ireland against Gibraltar on Monday, although Kenny is adamant sentiment will not come into his thinking.

He said: “You can’t allow sentiment to enter your decision-making process when you’re selecting the team, that doesn’t come into it. But anything is possible.

“James, there’s an inevitability he will get 100 caps, it’s only a matter of when. He’s been an incredible servant to Ireland.

“You see [Luka] Modric playing at 37 last night – you wouldn’t put that out of the realms of James playing to that age. He’s obsessed with his levels of fitness. He could play for several years still.”

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