Evan Ferguson was ‘too honest’ in his role against France – Stephen Kenny

Ireland's Evan Ferguson has his hands full against Dayot Upamecano of France, as Eduardo Camavinga, bottom, and Antoine Griezmann of France look on. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen Kenny feels Evan Ferguson was “too honest” in his first Irish competitive appearance, hailing the selfless approach of the teenager which contributed to his early departure.

The 18-year-old was withdrawn after 65 minutes at the Aviva Stadium to be replaced by Adam Idah, with the rising star dealt a difficult hand as he spent periods of the game leading the line on his own.

Kenny said he was thrilled with how the Brighton player applied himself.

“He put in a huge shift and, as a central striker, it’s physically demanding, a physically demanding role and he was actually too honest,” said Kenny.

“He was coming deep when we didn’t need him to be, so it’s physically demanding. But for an 18-year-old he’s shown great maturity and I’m proud of his contribution. It’s a tough task to be given but he did fine.”

Kenny has stopped short of declaring June’s trip to Greece a must-win game, but winger Chiedozie Ogbene has admitted that a full return from a summer window which includes a home game with Gibraltar has to be the target. Ogbene said assistant boss John O’Shea spoke to the squad afterwards to stress that the performance in the 1-0 defeat against France needs to be the bar going forward.

He also conceded that a different skill-set may be required for Athens on June 16.

“I think when we go and play Greece away, it might be different, a different game-plan. We don’t know who is going to be involved in that game-plan,” he said.

“We have a really young squad but, no excuses, I think the boys want to start winning and we want to do it now.

“You’re asking a young team to beat France and to compete against the best in the world so soon and, from our history, we haven’t been the best nation.

“Hopefully sooner rather than later, we can get it to go in the right way. We have to go into the Holland games (September and November) and try to win.

“Most importantly, the two games coming up in June, we have to get the six points from those games and that’s the expectation we have of ourselves but, as I said, we need to be consistent. That’s something we’re striving towards.”

Kenny believes that a Greece side managed by Gus Poyet will fancy their own chances of a top-two finish.

“Certainly, there are four teams in contention for two places,” he said, “You’d feel France are the top team so, certainly, we need a good game in Greece and we have to go there and put in a big performance to get a victory.”