Future is looking bright as Northern Ireland Schoolboys secure victories
While Michael O'Neill's men may have claimed only one victory in 2013, there are some signs of progress at youth level, with both Northern Ireland's Schoolboys and Under 17s claiming victories in the last few days.
Desi Curry's Victory Shield side upset the odds to claim an historic 1-0 victory over England at Bournemouth's Goldsands Stadium that has given them an outside chance of lifting the famous trophy.
A late goal from Portadown schoolboy Shay Conaty gave Northern Ireland a sensational victory in front of 3,000 spectators, that did more than make up for last month's disappointing 3-0 defeat to Scotland at the Ballymena Showgrounds. The last time Northern Ireland beat England in the Victory Shield, the winning goal was scored by current international Corry Evans.
Now Northern Ireland must prepare for their final match of the tournament, against Wales at Bangor City on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports.
If Northern Ireland win the game, they could lift the trophy, but next week's game between Scotland and England will have a part to play in deciding the destination of the Shield.
Manager Desi Curry explained: “A win will not guarantee us the championship as we would need England and Scotland to draw their game for us to win the title outright but it would certainly put the pressure on them.
“We will travel with high hopes, and I know that everyone is looking forward to the game. If the boys can reproduce the skill and determination that they have shown in all the previous away games, I believe that we can pull off another victory.”
The Victory Shield is slightly unusual in the sense that if two or more teams are level on points at the end of the tournament, the trophy is shared. The only time Northern Ireland have won the competition outright was back in 2000/01, with current international captain Steven Davis playing a key role. England have won the last 12 competitions.
Stephen Robinson's Under- 17 international side are also in action this week, competing in the Qualifying Rounds of the U-17 European Championships.
On Thursday night, they lost 1-0 to Latvia at Stangmore Park, before they beat Luxembourg 3-1 at Solitude on Saturday evening. Goals from Adam Salley and Andrew Mooney, accompanied by an unfortunate own-goal, gave the Ulstermen the win.
They now face Turkey in Dungannon on Tuesday at 2pm, with a place in the second round still at stake.
Belfast Telegraph Digital