Irish rising star Andy Moran thriving during Blackburn loan spell after Brighton milestones with Rovers relishing mouth-watering Carabao Cup clash with Chelsea
- Moran, 20, joined Championship Blackburn on loan from Brighton in August
- Irish midfielder has enjoyed the Carabao Cup so far ahead of Chelsea tie
- He scored two goals and contributed two assists against Cardiff in last round
Andy Moran didn’t need much convincing when Blackburn Rovers came knocking back in the summer.
The talented Irish midfielder, 20, had ticked off several landmarks at Brighton, including a Premier League debut.
But the time had come for more regular senior football and a season on loan with Jon Dahl Tomasson’s youthful and progressive Rovers side appealed both to the youngster and his parent club.
Rovers may find themselves mid-table in the Championship but there have been performances to encourage alongside some trickier periods.
The Carabao Cup has seen Tomasson’s team in full flow, with an eight-goal thrashing of Harrogate Town and a 5-2 win over Cardiff City – which saw Moran grab two goals and two assists – setting up Wednesday’s mouth-watering trip to Chelsea.
Andy Moran has found Blackburn Rovers the perfect loan club as the Irish rising star enjoys plenty of game time in the Championship and the Carabao Cup
The 20-year-old midfielder signed for Rovers on loan from Brighton back in August
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‘As soon as the interest came, I was sold,’ Moran tells Mail Sport. ‘A lot of things came together – the history of the club appealed and the manager as well.
‘I spoke with the gaffer as soon as I heard about the interest and I was really sold on his style of play and everything about the club. It is the perfect place.
‘The amount of games is tough but it’s also a good thing because it means a lot of games and with that comes opportunities to play and we all relish that.
‘We like to obviously play good, attractive football and so sometimes you’ll see us slice through teams.
‘There have been games when we’ve had three 19-year-olds in the starting team so I think it shows the trust the manager has in us and that is a perfect environment for us young lads.
‘You need that trust from the rest of the players and the manager himself.’
Another advantage of choosing Ewood Park is that Tomasson has happily tried Moran out in different positions – but which does he prefer?
‘I’d probably class myself as an attacking midfielder, a No 10 type player but I’m quite versatile,’ he says.
The way Jon Dahl Tomasson sets up his Blackburn side appealed to the young midfielder
Moran admired Cesc Fabregas growing up and especially his well-honed eye for the right pass
‘I think I’ve played left wing, right wing, 10 and a little bit deeper for Blackburn already. As long as the team is playing football, I think I can play anywhere.
‘As long as we play through the thirds, it kind of suits me and I can model my game differently.
‘When I was really young, my favourite player was always Cesc Fabregas. He probably played a bit deeper than I do but his eye for a pass, I always loved watching him split defences open with passes that nobody else really sees.
‘I’d like to think I have a bit of that in my game, trying to be creative, trying to spot things that others can’t.’
The Championship is known for being a good physical test but Moran is well prepared.
Raised in the Dublin suburb of Knocklyon, he was just 15 years and 307 days old when he made his first appearance for Bray Wanderers in the League of Ireland in August 2019.
Moran made more history when he became Bray’s youngest-ever goalscorer at 16 years and 135 days the following year.
Moran takes on the Millwall defence during Rovers’ 2-1 win at The Den last week
‘There is no teacher like men’s football. When I was playing back home, I was really young and it made me a lot better technically and in duels. I’m not the biggest but especially when I was 15,’ he recalls.
‘It definitely spoke to me, going over to Brighton as an under-18, I might have had a bit of a head-start, a bit of knowhow and that is the stuff you learn in the men’s environment.
‘It stands me and people like [Brighton team-mate] Evan Ferguson, who would have played when he was 14.
‘I think it’s brilliant. There can be a lot of criticism about playing people too young but if the player is ready and it’s for all the right reasons, I don’t see why not.’
His progress in Brighton’s academy was rapid. Moran first sampled the senior team in a Carabao Cup game against Cardiff in August 2021 and made his Premier League bow in a 4-1 away win at Everton earlier this year.
Now he can’t wait to test himself against the stars of Chelsea, with Rovers set to be backed by a sold-out away end of over 3,000 fans.
‘I’m really excited. I was on the bench last year for Brighton at Stamford Bridge so hopefully I will get to experience that all over again with Blackburn in a cup game, a knockout game, will be unbelievable,’ he says.
‘I think we have sold out our allocation, they will be there in numbers and it will be a great night.
‘If you just look at their squad, they can’t really put out a weak team, the money they’ve spent. They have quality all over the pitch.
‘We know it’s going to be tough – a Premier League team playing a Championship team – but we back ourselves in the way we play and hopefully with a good performance we’ll get the result.’
Moran has grand ambitions for both club and country in the months ahead
Really, the only setback for Moran this season was picking up an injury knock when he’d been called into the Republic of Ireland senior squad – having scored an eye-catching goal in the under-21’s 3-2 win over Turkey in Cork.
‘The last camp was a tough one. I got the senior call-up after the U21 games but unfortunately I got injured in that game so I just missed out,’ Moran says.
‘That was gutting because it was one of my dreams growing up to play for Ireland, the senior team. I am obviously still young so hopefully there’s time.’
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