20-year-old Blackburn Rovers midfielder Andrew Moran has been promoted from the Ireland under-21s after some of the senior squad were rated as doubtful for this international window. This is despite Jim Crawford’s men facing crucial qualifiers against Norway and Italy this month.
Moran is expected to win his first cap either in the final Euro qualifier against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday, or in the friendly versus New Zealand next Tuesday in Dublin.
Moran has had an impressive season so far for Blackburn, earning positive reviews for his contributions, playing 12 matches in the Championship this season (notching three assists). In the EFL Cup he has scored twice with three assists.
Moran had been due to make the step up for last month’s Euro qualifier against Gibraltar in Faro, but an ankle injury on under 21 duty ruled him out.
Born and raised in Knocklyon, Moran started out at his local club Knocklyon United. He then moved to St Joseph’s Boys, before joining the academy at Bray Wanderers. Moran was marked out early at Bray as an alert kid and player with a strong mentality, who always wanted to win. He made his first team debut for the club aged just 15 years and 307 days old, in a game against Drogheda United in August 2019 (making him the youngest ever player in the club’s history). He became the clubs youngest ever goal scorer (at 16 years and 135 days old) when he scored in a 2-0 win over Wexford in February 2020.
In July 2020 Moran signed for the academy of Brighton and Hove Albion (along with fellow Bray starlet Leigh Kavanagh). He signed his first professional contract in July 2021 and on 24th August 2021 he made his first team debut for the club (coming off the bench in the 67th minute of a 2-0 win over Cardiff City in the second round of the EPL Cup).
A three-year contract extension was signed with Brighton in August 2022 and he made his Premier League debut on 3rd January 2023 coming on as a 79th minute substitute in a 4-1 away win over Everton. In August 2023 he scored a brace for Brighton’s under 21’s in a 3-2 away win over League Two side Walsall in the EFL Trophy.
A season long loan move followed to Championship side Blackburn Rovers late in August 2023. At the time of the move, Brighton Technical Director David Weir said, “Andrew is really highly thought of here – he has been a key player for the under 21’s in the last year and that has seen him be involved in the first team. The next step for him though is to get regular minutes in senior football and we’re confident he’s ready to test himself in the Championship. We will be keeping a close eye on his progress throughout the season.”. He made his debut on 27th August 2023, coming on as a substitute in a 1-0 away win over Watford. He then started the next Rovers match in their 8-0 win over League Two side Harrogate Town in the EFL Cup Second round. Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson said: “(Moran is) a great player, first of all. He scores goals, he can give assists. He’s intelligent, his flair on the ball is extremely good, to carry the ball, he’s good to play one or two touches. He works hard for the team. A young boy, young man, who is also very driven. He wants to become better, he is very ambitious”.
Moran has represented his country at under-16, under-17, under-19, and under-21 level (making his debut for the under 21’s in a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg in September 2021). He scored his first goal for the under-21’s on 16th June 2023 in a 2-2 draw with Ukraine. He has made 8 appearances for the under 21’s scoring 2 goals.
An exciting and dynamic young talent, and with Manager Stephen Kenny “delighted to have him in this squad”, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to senior international football in this window. With 955 minutes played for Blackburn this season, a pass completion rate of 82%, 73 duels won and 21 successful dribbles, fans will be eager to see him in action. After a disappointing qualifying campaign, Ireland fans would like to have some optimism moving forward to 2024!