JD Club NI’s 2004 squad finished an impressive sixth overall out of 24 teams at this year’s Rotterdam Cup (U15 section).
Along the way the U15 side from Northern Ireland had some memorable results in the annual Sport Chain-sponsored competition in the Netherlands – and finished higher up the rankings than some well-known club sides from Europe and beyond.
Coached by Gerald Lyttle, the 2004 squad from the Irish FA’s elite development programme began their campaign with group games and they opened their Group D account with a 1-0 victory over Canadian team Excellence Soccer Academie - and followed that with a 2-0 win against Finnish outfit Kapylan Pallo.
Game three, however, was a tougher test and they lost out 2-0 to the U15 academy side from German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.
They got back in the groove on day two of the tournament when they defeated Belgian team Club Brugge 2-1 and then Danish outfit Brondby by the same scoreline.
Both JD Club NI and Hoffenheim won four out of five games in the group but Hoffenheim progressed to the semi-finals thanks to a marginally better goal difference.
It meant JD Club NI instead went through to the mini competition to decide the rankings between fifth and eighth.
A 1-0 win over American outfit Crossfire Premier on day three in Rotterdam saw them progress to the fifth/sixth play-off where they were defeated by Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar.
Spanish giants Atletico Madrid were the overall winners, while Sparta Rotterdam finished as runners-up. Hoffenhemin ended the tournament fourth overall behind fellow German outfit RB Leipzig.
JD Club NI finished higher up the rankings than the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Slavia Prague, Hajduk Split, Brondby, Club Brugge, Orlando Pirates (South Africa) and Vancouver Whitecaps (Canada).
JD Club NI U15s squad for 2019 Rotterdam Cup:
Goalkeepers – Billy McDowell (Coleraine), Alex Henderson (Coleraine).
Defenders – Jake Wallace (Glentoran), Michael Forbes (Dungannon United Youth), Josh Roney (Portadown), Bobby Deane (Derry City), Aaron Wightman (Glentoran), Joe Hopes (Glentoran).
Midfielders – Harry Wilson (Glentoran), Dylan Sloan (Glentoran), Jamie McDonnell (Glentoran), Oliver Lamb (Middlesbrough), Oisin Gallagher (Derry City), Conor Scannell (Cliftonville).
Forwards – Charlie Lindsay (Glentoran), Matthew Carson (Glentoran), Conor Falls (Glentoran), Mackenzie Kirk (Heart of Midlothian).
Image: Dylan Sloan, seen here in action against Manchester United last summer, was in the JD Club NI 2004 squad that finished sixth overall in this year’s Rotterdam Cup (U15 section).