Northern Ireland U19s and U17s boss Gerard Lyttle tasted victory in his first match in charge of the U19s.
His side defeated a Dundalk Select 2-0 in a friendly at Oriel Park yesterday – and the manager was pleased with his team’s performance.
The game against Dundalk came at the end of a five-day training camp which kick-started preparations for Euro qualifiers in the autumn.
There was a frantic opening to the game with both sides battling to keep possession. The first clearcut opportunity came on 14 minutes when Dundalk hit the woodwork.
Northern Ireland’s first chance came with a ball over the top to Charlie Lindsay, who lifted the ball back into the box. The home side initially cleared their lines but the ball fell to Jamie McDowell who dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area.
Dundalk started to control possession as the half wore on, however Northern Ireland were a threat on the break and dangerous crosses were delivered into the box by captain Sean McAllister and Dane McCullough. And McDowell battled hard in the middle of the park.
McCullough whipped in a dangerous free-kick which the Dundalk keeper could only parry, although Northern Ireland were unable to convert the rebound.
A penetrating Dundalk attack was expertly snuffed out by Michael Forbes before McAllister produced a fine solo run. He slipped the ball to Ross McCausland but his shot was blocked.
There were very few clearcut chances for either team in the first half.
Northern Ireland started the second half the stronger and controlled the bulk of possession.
Lindsay fired a long range free-kick just inches over the bar before Dundalk hit the bar with a 25-yard strike.
The first goal came in the 80th minute from a slick move. Lindsay held the ball up before switching the play to Ciaran McGuckin who cushioned a header into Rio McEvoy’s path. McEvoy then drove into the box before firing the ball across the face of goal for Terry Devlin to stroke it into the bottom corner.
The second goal came from a superb interception from Caolan McBride. Northern Ireland were able to break down the left and another low cross into the box found McEvoy who clipped the ball home.
Lyttle said afterwards: “It’s been another really worthwhile camp for the lads. This time we had 10 players who were born in 2004, with the others all 2003s.
“It gave the younger players a feel for what we want and expect if they get called up to future squads. The training game pleased me as it was their first as a group.
“We were able to see some of our ideas in a real game scenario. I was happy that young Rio and Terry both scored. They came on as subs in the second half and showed a great attitude to be part of what we are trying to do here.
“Dylan Berry was also solid in goals for his first game and for me the standout performer was Shea Charles at centre back. You can see why he’s playing at Manchester City. He was so composed and comfortable on the ball.”
Lyttle also issued a thank-you to Stephen McDonnell, Jim Magilton and Dundalk FC for hosting the friendly.
“It was a tough game but one that was very worthwhile,” the U19s manager added.
The U19s are due to face Czech Republic, Denmark and Kazakhstan (Group 13) in a four-team mini tournament in the qualifying round for the next U19 Euros. The games are pencilled in for 6-12 October in the Czech Republic, although match venues have still to be finalised.
Northern Ireland U19s team v Dundalk Select: Dylan Berry, Dane McCullough, Cameron Stewart, Michael Forbes, Brodie Spencer, Shea Charles, Harry Wilson, Sean McAllister, Jamie McDowell, Charlie Lindsay, Ross McCausland. Substitutes: (used) Stephen McMullan, Matty Carson, Lewis Mackinnon, Ciaran McGuckin, Caolan McBride, Jake Wallace, Terry Devlin, Oisin Conaty, Rio McEvoy.