Northern Ireland turned on the style in winning an under-16 boys’ UEFA development tournament on home soil.
The four-team international competition saw the boys in green take on Kosovo, Luxembourg and the Faroe Islands – and they produced some breathtaking football and scored plenty of goals.
Stephen Frail, the Northern Ireland U17s and U19s boss, took charge of the squad and was delighted with their performances. And most of the young players who pulled on the green shirt over the five-day competition will undoubtedly feature in Frail’s U17 squad later this year.
In their first game Northern Ireland took on Kosovo at Stangmore Park in Dungannon.
Goals from Barry Baggley, Aaron Brown, Jack Scott and Ben Gallagher saw them comfortably defeat the visitors by four goals to one. Bilalli Oltion replied for the Kosovans.
In the other fixture on matchday one, played at Moyola Park FC’s Mill Meadow ground in Castledawson, Luxembourg eased past the Faroes 1-0 thanks to a strike from Alessio Curci.
Game two for Northern Ireland was against Luxembourg. Played in Castledawson, it was a tougher test for them but again the U16 development side were the better team. The manager rang the changes but the players on the park rose to the challenge.
Northern Ireland opened the scoring on 32 minutes when Baggley grabbed his second of the tournament. Luxembourg equalised through Yann Hoffman in the 50thminute but Frail’s side restored their lead again nine minutes later thanks to a strike from substitute Carl Johnston, and that was enough to secure a 2-1 win.
In the other fixture on matchday two Kosovo enjoyed a 4-0 win against the Faroes, with Taulant Kicmari, Leorant Marmullaku, Veton Tusha and Edin Huseini grabbing the goals. That game was also played at Mill Meadow.
With two wins under their belt, and coming up against the weakest side in the tournament, it was no surprise when Northern Ireland made it three wins out of three in their final game against the Faroes.
Again the manager tweaked his starting 11 for the game at Stangmore Park but again they produced flowing football and ran out deserved winners on an 8-2 scoreline.
Charlie Allen sparked the goal rush after just two minutes before the Faroes drew level through Gulak Jacobsen.
However, the home side quickly restored their lead thanks to a Ben Gallagher strike just two minutes later.
Two quickfire goals from Peter McKiernan and Ross McCausland, in the 14thand 15thminutes, put the boys in green in the driving seat. Carl Johnston then netted to put Frail’s boys five up before the break.
Northern Ireland continued to attack in the second period and their sixth goal came on 45 minutes when McKiernan grabbed his second of the game.
Just two minutes later they were in seventh heaven when Ben Wylie got on the scoresheet. And Aidan Steele rounded off the scoring for Northern Ireland on 76 minutes.
There was still time, however, for another goal. And it was an unfortunate own goal by Northern Ireland keeper David Walsh.
Luxembourg beat Kosovo 3-1, with goals from Hoffman, Curci and Noah Pieree Mabika, to finish second overall behind the hosts. That game was played at Wellington Rec’s ground in Larne.
Northern Ireland U16 Development Squad: David Walsh, Jack Scott, Euan Deveney, Kyle McClelland, Micheal Glynn, Dylan Boyle (captain), Peter McKiernan, Ben Wylie, Aaron Brown, Carl Johnston, Barry Baggley, Nathan Copeland, Ben Gallagher, Charlie Allen, Aidan Steele, Trai Hume, John McGivern, Gerard Storey, Ross McCausland, Caolan McBride.
Picture gallery: Action from the Northern Ireland U16s v Luxembourg U16s UEFA development tournament game played at Mill Meadow in Castledawson.