Northern Ireland lost to the Republic of Ireland in a Junior International friendly yesterday.
Despite dominating the game at Tolka Park in Dublin for long periods, they were undone by three goals stemming from individual errors.
Harry McConkey, who manages Northern Ireland’s Regions Cup and Junior International squads, was upbeat after the game even though his team lost 3-1.
He said: “Gerald Boyle (coach) and myself are deeply disappointed with the result but we are delighted with the team’s performance. We won many admirers with our style of play, and I think I have found a few more rough diamonds ready to be polished.”
Northern Ireland played some quality football during the 90 minutes in Drumcondra.
Stuart Hutchinson scored an excellent team goal to bring Northern Ireland back into it after the Republic had twice gone ahead against the run of play.
And not long after that Kevin Lynch glanced a header inches wide after another slick combination from the team.
But within minutes the Northern Ireland defence presented the ball to one of the Republic’s strikers when they were trying to play out from the back and he finished clinically to make it 3-1 and put the game beyond the visitors’ reach.
Harry revealed afterwards that both Greg Hall and Shane McGinty really caught the eye in a game that was a useful exercise as his squad prepare for next year’s Umbro Cup tournament.
The Junior International boss used all 18 of his players during the match.
He said: “I am delighted this squad of players got Junior International recognition.
“I have scoured the country week in, week out since last August hoping to take a team to Glasgow this month. Sadly the plug was pulled on this year’s Umbro Cup tournament back in March.
“No Junior International player outside the Regions Cup criteria has been recognised since 2013. These players deserved their opportunity to represent Northern Ireland after their wonderful commitment and consistently high performance levels for their clubs this season.”
He further explained that both he and Gerald Boyle are excited by the potential in the squad if and when the Umbro Cup tournament takes place. It was last staged in Limerick in 2013 when it was won by the Republic.
Harry also thanked Denis Cruise, secretary of the Football Association of Ireland’s Junior International Committee, the FAI Junior International Committee and Gerry Davis of the FAI for arranging the game and being “such wonderful hosts”.
In the squad yesterday were: goalkeepers - Michael Dougherty (Harland & Wolff Welders), Gareth Buchanan (Loughgall); defenders - Greg Hall, Kyle Buckley, James Cully (all Ards), Graeme Taylor (Loughgall), Stephen Hutchinson (Lurgan Celtic); midfielders - Stefan Lavery, Andrew Hoey, Philip Donnelly (all Armagh City), Shane McGinty (Institute), Aaron Walsh (Loughgall), Stuart Hutchinson (PSNI), Ryan Deans (Harland & Wolff Welders); forwards - Warner Mullen (Loughgall); Kevin Lynch (Sport & Leisure); Aaron Haire (Lurgan Celtic), Guillaume Keke (Larne).