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Shane Duffy is hoping Evan Ferguson can be the Republic of Ireland’s talisman for years to come as the teenager finds his feet on the international stage.

The 18-year-old Brighton striker’s absence through injury for last month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against France and the Netherlands left manager Stephen Kenny without perhaps his most potent weapon and in his absence, Ireland’s hopes of dragging themselves back into the race for qualification from Group B were effectively ended.

Ferguson is back in harness for Friday night’s clash with Greece at the Aviva Stadium and having witnessed his emergence both in the Premier League and for his country, former Seagulls team-mate Duffy is confident he has what it takes to succeed.

Evan Ferguson has made an impressive start to his senior international career
Evan Ferguson has made an impressive start to his senior international career (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “For me, he’s got everything, he’s the full package. He’s a strong boy, he’s a top finisher, he’s willing to work for the team and he’s willing to learn. For an 18-year-old, there is so much pressure on him already, you think that’s a good habit to have.

“We’re all really excited for the future for him. Hopefully with a bit of luck, he’s our talisman for years to come and gets the goals we all want. He’s a really good boy, he has a really bright future.”

Ferguson’s blossoming talent has inevitably invited comparisons to Ireland’s record goalscorer Robbie Keane, who made his senior international debut against the Czech Republic as a 17-year-old in March 1998.

Keane went on to score 68 goals in 146 appearances – also a record – for his country over more than 18 years, for many of them the focal point of a team which he helped reach the World Cup finals in 2002 and Euro 2012 and 2016.

However, Duffy has warned Ferguson he needs to keep his feet firmly on the ground if he is to fulfil his potential, and has seen signs that he will be able to do that.

He said: “First of all, he’s a great boy. He’s a really good head on his shoulders. He’s humble first and foremost, he never gets ahead of himself.

“He came to Brighton at 16 and he was like a man already. He stood out unbelievably well. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s only 18 and there’s a lot of pressure on him already.

“He will produce. For me, he’s got everything to be a top striker in the Premier League and in Europe. He just needs to keep going the way he is going, not to get too ahead of himself.”

Now 31, Duffy is approaching the opposite end of his career to Ferguson and will be 36 by the time Euro 2028, for which Ireland and the United Kingdom were this week named hosts, comes around.

Asked if that was in his sights, the Norwich defender replied with a smile: “I’m just trying to survive until Friday, never mind 2028. I can’t look that far ahead, honestly.

“Listen, I’ll never give up. I don’t know where I’m going to be in 2028. I’ll be the kit man or something.”

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