Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland seek a share of Victory Shield spoils against Welsh

It is still all to play for when the Northern Ireland Under-16 team takes on Wales in the Sky Sports Victory Shield at the Ballymena Showgrounds tomorrow (Thursday) night (kick off, 6pm).

Wales currently top the group with six points and a draw will be sufficient for them to win the championship outright for the first time since 1949. 

After decisive wins at home to England 1-0 and away to Scotland 2-1, the visitors will be confident that they can lift the trophy in their own right. However, Northern Ireland's 2-1 success against Scotland at St Mirren Park means that they can share the title by defeating Wales. 

Northern Ireland won the Victory Shield outright in 2000 when a team inspired by current Northern Ireland captain Steve Davis defeated Wales 2-1 at the Ballymena Showgrounds to lift the trophy. Home supporters will hope that the current side can repeat that victory.

Northern Ireland have never shared the crown so victory would ensure that both names were engraved on the shield together for the first time. In that event, England could force a three-way tie by overcoming Scotland at Yeovil.

Northern Ireland Manager Stephen Robinson has named a squad of 22 for the decider. St Malachy's full-back Bobby Burns is called up for the first time and centre-back Padraig Hughes rejoins the squad. Hughes played in the friendly internationals against Poland and Finland, scoring against Finland, but did not feature against Scotland and England.

Northern Ireland will be well aware of the threat posed by Welsh striker Liam Cullen. The Swansea City forward was a constant threat to the Scots and scored both goals in a notable success. Welsh captain Tyler Roberts is the midfield playmaker who can create chances for Cullen and his striking partner Ben Woodburn.

The game is being televised live by Sky Sports, and a large crowd is expected. Northern Ireland Schools FA Treasurer Edwin Ferris stated: "We have had a great deal of interest from local schools, clubs and youth clubs who will be bringing groups of supporters to the match to urge on the Northern Ireland team."

Scouts and Academy Directors from the top Premiership clubs will be out in force to check on the stars of tomorrow.

The Northern Ireland Schools’ Football Association is offering free entrance to any school or youth group wishing to attend the game against Wales. Any group wishing to gain free entrance should send their details by email to Edwin Ferris, NISFA Treasurer, at edwinferris@yahoo.co.uk to obtain a group permit.

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