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Northern Ireland under-16s boss Robinson prioritises application over silverware

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland under-16s go into tonight's final Victory Shield clash knowing that a win against Wales will guarantee them a share of the title. For manager Stephen Robinson, however, it is the performances in the last two games - a 2-1 win over Scotland and the 1-0 defeat to England a fortnight ago - that have filled him with pride and the most important thing is getting a repeat against the Welsh at the Ballymena Showgrounds this evening (6pm).

With the title being shared if teams finish level on points rather than goal different being used to decide the winners, Wales have already secured at least a share of the Victory Shield.

A draw will see them win it outright, but both Northern Ireland and England - who face Scotland - can also put a hand on the trophy, which has only been on this side of the Irish Sea once, back in 2000.

"It is a fantastic achievement for this group of players that they are going into the final game in the Victory Shield with a chance of sharing the title and it's testimony to the programme that we have been putting in place," said Robinson.

"It's been good to see how physically and mentally strong the players have been throughout the last two games and they have played some good football too.

"It's also good to see the work we have put in on the training ground being carried over into the matches.

"Winning matches is good for the public perception of the team, but as coaches we look at other things and seeing that work pay off is where you get your buzz.

"We had Belgium's head of coach education in this week and they don't put any emphasis on results until under-21 level - which is maybe why they are doing so well.

"It tells me that what we are doing is right, but they are 10 years ahead of us and they have a population of 11 million, while we have less than two million."

Robinson has added defensive pair Bobby Burns and Padraig Hughes to his squad, meaning that all 22 players who have been involved in the Irish FA's programme this year are included.

Although neither have figured in the Victory Shield this season they do have a chance of playing against Wales.

"I will be making changes to the team," Robinson revealed.

"There is no point in us going through the three Victory Shield matches and only giving starts to 11 players. That goes against the development that we are trying to promote."

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD: Connor Larkin (Drumcree College/Armagh City), Matty Davidson (Campbell College/Linfield), Cormac Lawlor (St Malachy's, Belfast/Cliftonville), Conal Fagan (St Colum's College/Oxford United Stars), Jack White (Newtownbreda High School/Glentoran), Lucas Gallashan (Boy's Model/Glentoran), Liam McKenna (De La Salle/Oliver Plunkett), Chris Crane (Corpus Christi/Linfield), Padraig Hughes (St Colm's College/Glendowan), Bobby Burns (St Malachy's/Cliftonville), Chris Gallagher (De La Salle/Linfield), Matt Lynch (De La Salle/Glenavon), Dylan Davidson (Hazelwood College/Cliftonville), Stephen Mallon (CBS/Oliver Plunkett), Tre Stirling (Boy's Model/Glentoran), Thomas Roscoe (Wallace High School/Linfield), Niall Cassidy (St Malachy's, Castlewellan/Armagh), Jack Sharvin (St Colmcille's/Linfield), Alex Carolan (Deele College/Maiden City), Dave Parkhouse (St Joseph's/Maiden City), Reece McGinley (Rainhill High School/Liverpool), Jack McCourt (Boy's Model/Linfield).

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