Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lambert forecasts big future for powerhouse Lenihan

John Fallon

Published 29/02/2016 | 02:30

Darragh Lenihan Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Darragh Lenihan Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Blackburn Rovers manager Paul Lambert has tipped Darragh Lenihan for a big future after securing the Ireland U-21 midfielder on a three-year contract extension.

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The 21-year-old has been a rare success story in England this season for emerging Irish talent, playing his 11th game in a row for Rovers on Saturday in their 3-2 win over MK Dons.

Other Championship clubs, as well as some Premier League outfits, had been monitoring Lenihan's impressive progress, aware that his contract was due to lapse in the summer.

Lambert acted swiftly to remove the uncertainty by offering the former Belvedere player vastly-improved terms, underlining the faith the Scot has shown in the player since his appointment as Blackburn manager last November.

"Darragh deserved the new deal. He has got a really good chance of becoming a top footballer if he keeps his feet on the ground.

"Before I came in, he never really got a chance here but he made a big impact during a loan spell at Burton, where he really impressed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

"I remember watching him against Preston in an U-21 game and I thought he was somebody worth keeping an eye on. And then I watched him down at Aston Villa and I thought he was excellent.

"Slowly but surely, we've given him his opportunity to get in and, without putting too much pressure on him, he's got a real chance."

Lenihan's club ascent has been matched at international level. After breaking into the Ireland U-21 team in 2014, manager Noel King appointed the powerhouse as his captain for the current European Championship qualification campaign.

Ireland are next in action on March 24 when they host group leaders Italy in Waterford, where Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are likely to be interested observers.

Irish Independent

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