Belfast Telegraph

Schoolboys on target after meeting record goal scorer

By Keith Bailie

Northern Ireland's Under 18 Schoolboys got a lift before their opening Centenary Shield against Scotland on Thursday.

Northern Ireland's record international scorer David Healy visited the team before their game in East Fife. With Healy watching from the stands, Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Crusaders youngster Curtis Dempster scoring for the Ulstermen.

Manager Conor Marlin said: “The boys loved having David at the game. I phoned him up last week and asked him if he could attend and he was more than happy to help out. He's achieved a lot in international football, but he's still a down to earth guy.

“He drove four hours from his house in England just to meet the boys and it meant a lot to them.

He spent a bit of time working with the strikers. For guys like Curtis Dempster, David is a real childhood hero.

“He was impressed with our style of play and the passion and desire the lads showed. As a team we're starting to play some good football.”

Northern Ireland took the lead in the 57 minute thanks to goal from Dempster, but an unfortunate 90 minute own goal from Ciaron Harkin gave Scotland a share of the points.

Reflecting on the game, Marlin said: “It was tough to take for the boys because they were the better team and deserved to take all three points. The own goal was unfortunate – I really think we should have had a free-kick in the build up to the goal, but the ref didn't spot it.

“Our next game against the Republic of Ireland will be a big barometer of how good we are. They beat Wales 3-0 in their first game, so they're obviously a strong side. But I'm confident we can give them a good game.”

Marlin manages the team alongside former Bangor boss Frankie Wilson. The squad can now look forward to games against Republic of Ireland, Wales and England.

Marlin said: “This is a young team at this level. Of our squad of 18, 12 of them only started playing for us this season and we've a number of lads who can play for us in next year's tournament.

“It's a bit of a new regime because Bob Ramsey was the manager of this team for over 15 years. Now it's myself and Frankie Wilson and we're brining in a few new ideas. We're very positive about this group of players.”

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