If Steve Beaglehole is to lead his Northern Ireland under-19 side to the European finals he will have to do it the hard way.
And he has been denied home advantage as a helping hand.
Yesterday’s draw for the Elite qualifying phase handed the Northern Ireland boys the task of topping a group containing the Czech Republic, Italy and Russia if they are to progress to the finals in France.
“It’s a very difficult group with three very strong nations in there,” said Beaglehole.
“It will be a great experience for the players though and we’d certainly rather be there than not have qualified.
“We did try to bring it to Northern Ireland, but I was told we probably wouldn’t have pitches available at the end of May.
“I’ve not got to prepare the players and I may take the under-19 squad to San Marino for the under-21 international in March. I’ll be discussing that with Nigel Worthington.”
Paul Kee’s under-17 team will host their Elite group against Belgium, Poland and Spain next March, with the finals in Liechtenstein.
UEFA 2010 under-19 Elite Qualifying group: Czech Republic, Italy, Northern Ireland, Russia (Russia, May 21-26 2010).
UEFA 2010 under-17 Elite Qualifying group: Belgium, Northern Ireland, Poland, Spain (Northern Ireland, March 17-22 2010).
UEFA 2011 under-19 Qualifying: Andorra, Germany, Northern Ireland, Switzerland. (Germany, October 7-12 2010).
UEFA 2011 under-17 Qualifying: Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Northern Ireland, Portugal (Portugal October 22-17 2010).