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Jim Magilton's Northern Ireland Under-21s ready to go hunting for debut triumph

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland Under-21s face the daunting challenge of securing their first win in the 2017 European Championship qualifiers against France today (5.45pm).

Jim Magilton's boys will be hoping to show Michael O'Neill's senior panel what it takes to win on French soil ahead of next summer's Euro 2016 finals.

So far in Group Three Northern Ireland have lost 2-1 at home to Scotland, drawn 1-1 in Iceland before crashing to a 2-1 defeat against Macedonia at Mourneview Park.

Back to back games against France and Ukraine offer Magilton's side an opportunity to taste that winning feeling for the first time, with one point from three battles not reflecting the progress the players at that level are making.

Mourneview Park will again be the venue for the home date with Ukraine next Tuesday.

While results have not been kind, Magilton has been left heartened by the performances, particularly in Iceland where he said the players were "superb, despite playing in horrific conditions".

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Among the travelling party is Swindon Town starlet Jordan Stewart who has battled homesickness since his big move from Glentoran. Crusaders' talented winger Gavin Whyte is also in Magilton's panel.

Northern Ireland lie fifth in the group table, ahead of Ukraine who have yet to earn their first point.

Scotland are fourth on four points while Iceland lead the way on 11 points with France and Macedonia both on six.

League leaders Iceland have played two more matches (five) than all their group rivals.

Northerrn Ireland Under-21 squad: Goalkeepers: Conor Brennan, Conor Mitchell; Defenders: Cameron Dummigan, Liam Donnelly, Rhys Sharpe, Luke Conlan, Josh Doherty, Luke McCullough; Midfielders: Darren McKnight, Lewis Maloney, Michael Duffy, Ryan McLaughlin, Gavin Whyte, Jordan Stewart; Forwards: Shay McCartan, James McDonagh, Robbie McDaid, Mikhail Kennedy.

Northern Ireland Under-19's clash against Norway was potsponed yesterday due to a waterlogged pitch in Russia and will now need to be rescheduled.

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