Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland youngsters must show desire, says Stephen Craigan

By Stuart McKinley

Stephen Craigan is challenging every young player throughout the Northern Ireland underage set-up to do everything they can to achieve first-team football at their club, with the end goal of claiming a place in Michael O'Neill's senior squad.

The 54-times capped former defender will lead the Northern Ireland under-19 team into two friendlies against Switzerland this week, at The Oval today (3pm), before a second meeting at Stangmore Park on Thursday (2pm).

The squad is made up of 16 and 17-year-olds and Craigan wants them to have the desire to go all the way to the top level.

"The challenge is there for all our players to be playing regular first-team football, because not enough of them are," said Craigan.

"Even in Michael's senior squad, there are players who aren't regulars at their clubs, but they need to be to help Northern Ireland.

"We have some young players who are at big clubs and that is great, but it may come to the stage where they have to look and see if there is a pathway for them to break through at that club or would they be better off elsewhere.

"The aim for every player should be to play senior international football, but you have to work hard for it. You have to make sacrifices, you have to dedicate yourself and there is an opportunity there if you do.

"We don't have a big pool of players, so anyone playing first-team football has a chance of being selected by Michael."

NORTHERN IRELAND UNDER-19 SQUAD: Conor Mitchell (Burnley), Brett Long (Motherwell), Jamie Harney (West Ham), Cameron Dummigan (Burnley), Josh Doherty (Watford), Kris Lowe (Dungannon), Levi Ives (Torquay United), Michael Newberry (Newcastle United), Kyle Symons (Notts County), Mark Edgar (Blackburn Rovers), George Gray (Preston North End), Dale Gorman (Stevenage), Eoghan McCawl (Hull City), Jordan Thompson (Manchester United), Lewis Collins (Reading), Robbie McDaid (Glenavon), Sean Mullan (Sheffield Wednesday), Mikhail Kennedy (Charlton Athletic), Louis Rooney (Plymouth Argyle).

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