Northern Ireland U16 Schoolboys began their campaign to retain the Victory Shield with a 1-1 draw against Wales.
It was a ding-dong contest at Colliers Park in Wrexham as Gerard Lyttle’s side set out to emulate last year’s success in the four-nation tournament.
Northern Ireland created the first decent opening of the game. Conor Scannell carved open the home defence and sent over a perfect cross to Jamie Donley whose header went inches past the post.
On 13 minutes, however, they deservedly took the lead after Donley was brought down inside the box. The striker got up to plant the spot kick into the corner of the net.
Oliver Lamb and Scannell were causing problems for the Welsh defence. In a good move down the right Lamb and Scannell combined well to create an opening for Jacson Coppack but his shot was well held by the goalkeeper.
Two minutes before the break Donley went close to doubling the lead but his powerful header was brilliantly turned on to the bar by Welsh keeper Tyler Evans and the ball was scrambled away.
A more determined looking Wales drew level within two minutes of the restart when substitute Joel Cotterill smashed a 20-yard free-kick just inside the post, giving U16 Schoolboys keeper Alex Henderson no chance.
On the hour Wales missed a great opportunity as a four-man breakaway bore down on Henderson but Northern Ireland centre back Michael Forbes got back to snuff out the danger.
Three minutes later Kian Jenkins went even closer but his shot from the edge of the box came off the upright with Henderson well beaten.
In the closing stages both sides pushed hard for a winner as play flowed from end to end.
Conor Falls tested Evans with a powerful drive and Shea Brennan shot straight at the keeper from 15 yards but the best chance fell to Welsh substitute Morgan Williams in the final minute when he broke clear but dragged his shot wide of the upright.
Tomorrow morning (30 October) Northern Ireland will face Scotland in their second game of the tournament (11.00 start). The Scots trounced Republic of Ireland 4-0 in their first game to top the table.
The final game for Lyttle’s side will be against Republic of Ireland Schoolboys on Friday (1 November) with a noon kick-off.
Northern Ireland U16 Schoolboys v Wales U16 Schoolboys: Alex Henderson, Brodie Spencer, Matthew Carson, Michael Forbes, Josh Roney, Aidan Lillis, Conor Scannell, Harry Wilson (captain), Jamie Donley, Jacson Coppack, Oliver Lamb. Substitutes: Conor Falls (replaced Lamb 52’), Ethan Sousa (Wilson 72’), Ruairi McConville (Lillis 79’), Shea Brennan (Donley 79’).
Image: Jamie Donley (number 9) was on target for Northern Ireland U16 Schoolboys against Wales.