Northern Ireland Schoolboys defeat Republic rivals to lift Centenary Shield
The Northern Ireland Under-18 Schoolboys team are celebrating after lifting the prestigious Centenary Shield as outright winners for the fifth time.
Frankie Wilson's class of 2019 join the roll of honour alongside Northern Ireland winners in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2013, while the boys in green also shared the trophy in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2017.
An impressive and dominant 3-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Queen's University's Dub complex kicked off the celebrations last night.
Two goals from Portadown and NIFL Academy striker Callum Ferris and another from Coleraine midfielder Andrew Whiteside inflicted the damage.
The win over the Republic followed 1-0 victories over Wales and Scotland and a scoreless draw with England which left them on seven points going into last night's encounter.
Wilson's side only needed a draw against the Republic to grasp the prize but they won it in style.
Whiteside opened the scoring with a stunning finish on 36 minutes and Ferris pounced to double the lead a minute later.
In the 60th minute Republic substitute Ross Tierney grabbed a goal back but Ferris settled the contest in the 71st minute.
The victory is a proud moment for the Under-18 side and their 48-year-old boss Wilson.
Wilson, who is head of PE at Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock in Belfast, played for Cliftonville, Carrick, Ballyclare, Omagh Town and Bangor as well as the Antrim GAA side.
It’s an achievement that will live long in the memories of the players who want to follow in the footsteps of talents such as Mark Sykes, Paul Smyth, Brad Lyons and Gavin Whyte.
Glentoran Under-20 players Mal Smith, Lewis McGarvey and Sean Og Gallagher all featured for the winners.
Northern Ireland took the lead on 36 minutes when Ferris flicked the ball on to Whiteside, who lobbed it over the advancing keeper before collecting it again and slotting it home.
Just over a minute later, Ryan Carmichael darted down the left wing and delivered a fine cross into the area.
Ferris rose well to head the ball towards goal.
Keeper David Odumosu saved his initial effort but Ferris slammed in the rebound.
Republic substitute Tierney jinked his way past a couple of defenders on 60 minutes and somehow managed to squeeze the ball past Cliftonville’s Ruadhan McKenna to make it 2-1.
In the 71st minute, Smith floated a free-kick into the area which McGarvey flicked towards Ferris and he emphatically blasted the ball into the top corner to seal the victory.
Meanwhile, JD Club NI’s 2004 squad could face some of the finest young players from across Europe and beyond during the Easter break.
The Under-15 side from Northern Ireland are taking part in the Rotterdam Cup in the Netherlands this weekend.
The entry list for the annual Sport Chain-sponsored competition includes the likes of Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig, Hajduk Split, Club Brugge and Vancouver Whitecaps from Canada.
Gerard Lyttle’s side begin their Rotterdam Cup campaign tomorrow morning with a game against Canadian team Excellence Soccer Academie.