Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Latvia: Irish League starlets are out to boost international glory hopes

By Stuart McKinley

A trio of the Irish League's hottest young talents will get their chance to shine on the international stage as Northern Ireland's under-19s aim to emulate their senior counterparts.

Ballymena United's sought-after teenage sensation Matthew Shevlin is expected to spearhead the attack for Stephen Craigan's team, who are in Russia as they begin their quest to reach the European Championship finals today by taking on Norway.

He has been the subject of offers from both Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town, with a view to taking him to England in January, although a move at the end of the season is more likely.

Levi Ives, who has earned rave reviews since joining Cliftonville last month following his exit from Torquay United in the summer, will fight it out for the left-back spot with Coleraine's Lydon Kane.

Those three are joined in Craigan's squad by Adam Salley, who has also been making an impact at Linfield since the start of the season.

Goalkeeper Brett Long, defender Michael Newberry and midfielder Jordan Thompson - as well as Ives - are survivors from last year's tournament, when defeats in the opening two games put paid to qualification hopes.

It is a case of deja vu for those boys as they will once again face Russia in their second game.

Victory against either the Norwegians or Russians is imperative if they are to have a real chance of progressing when they meet Slovakia in the final game.

The top two in each group will progress to join holders Spain in the Elite qualifying round, along with the best third-placed finishers from the 13 groups.

NORTHERN IRELAND UNDER-19 SQUAD: Brett Long (Motherwell), Conor Hazard (Celtic), Ben Hall (Motherwell), Levi Ives (Cliftonville), Mark Edgar (Blackburn), Michael Newberry (Newcastle), Lydon Kane (Coleraine), Josh Stachini (Sheffield Wednesday), Ben Kennedy (Stevenage), Jordan Thomspon (Rangers), Charlie Owens (Tottenham), Shea Gordon (Sheffield Unied), Joe Crowe (Norwich City), Chris Paul (Tottenham), Gary Lavery (Fleetwood), Mark McKee (Cliftonville), Adam Salley (Linfield), Matthew Shevlin (Ballymena United).

Fixtures: Today: Northern Ireland v Norway (10am GMT), Slovakia v Russia. Friday November 13: Northern Ireland v Russia (1pm), Norway v Slovakia. Monday November 16 (both 10am): Northern Ireland v Slovakia, Norway v Russia.

Belfast Telegraph