The Northern Ireland Schools’ Football Association is preparing to host the 2021 Victory Shield tournament in Belfast next week.
The competition, which gave first international call-ups to Northern Ireland legends such as Steven Davis, Aaron Hughes and Jonny Evans, and more recently to Conor Bradley, is due to get under way on Sunday.
Crusaders’ Seaview stadium and Harland and Wolff Welders’ new home, the revamped Blanchflower Stadium, will be the venues for the six games in the tournament.
NISFA said it is delighted to be hosting the Under-16 Schoolboys international competition, which is run by the Schools’ Association Football International Board.
The Victory Shield was presented to SAFIB in 1947 to mark, as suggested by its title, victory by the Allies in World War II - and has been played for continuously since then.
Northern Ireland have only won the shield twice – in 2000-01 and 2018-19 – since the current version was set up in the 1940s.
Wales and Scotland shared the trophy in 2019-20, while the competition was not staged last season due to the Covid pandemic.
England have not entered in recent years, so Northern Ireland’s U16s will be facing Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland in the 2021 tournament.
The Northern Ireland squad face a tough opener against Wales at Seaview on Sunday (17 October), while Scotland will take on the Republic at Blanchflower Stadium on the same day. Both games kick off at 3pm.
Next up for Northern Ireland are Scotland at H&W Welders next Tuesday (19 October), while Wales will lock horns with the Republic at Seaview that day. Again both games kick off at 3pm.
The final matches are scheduled to be played next Friday (22 October) with Northern Ireland taking on the Republic at the Welders (1pm), and prior to that it will be Wales v Scotland at the same venue (11am).
Northern Ireland U16s manager Sean Paul Murray has included no fewer than nine Linfield, five Glentoran and four Derry City players in his squad, and there’s also representation from Ards, Dungannon Swifts and Liverpool in the panel.
Preparation for the tournament has differed this year with the squad completing a four-day training camp in Newcastle, Co Down, and they also travelled to Glasgow for a game against Rangers’ U17s.
Murray has chosen a 22-strong squad for the competition. He said: “The players and staff have worked incredibly hard over the past few months to prepare as best as we can for the Victory Shield.
“Hosting this flagship competition here in Northern Ireland will give the players extra motivation to achieve success. We have a hard working, talented and brave group of players that are determined to showcase their hard work and talent in front of a home crowd.
“The players have been through a difficult 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions which has reduced their opportunities to play, however they are in a good place now both physically and mentally which is a huge credit to their levels of resilience and something they and their families should take a great deal of pride and satisfaction in.
“It will be an exciting and challenging week for all involved and it’s something that we are looking forward to immensely.”
- Entry is £4 on the gate which includes match programme and teamsheet
- Clubs and scouts interested in attending games should email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Northern Ireland Victory Shield squad for 2021:
Goalkeepers – Mason Munn (Glentoran/Glastry College, Ballyhalbert), Jack Wilkins (Linfield/Bangor Academy).
Defenders – Callum Cowan (Linfield/Ballyclare High School), Theo McToal (Glentoran/Belfast High School, Newtownabbey), Bobby Harvey (Linfield/Belfast High School, Newtownabbey), Adhamh Patton (Derry City/Holy Cross College, Strabane), Kyle McCloskey (Derry City/Limavady Grammar School), Ollie Crowe (Dungannon Swifts/Portadown College), Brendy Hamilton (Glentoran/St Malachy’s College, Belfast), Josh Briggs (Linfield/Blessed Trinity College, Belfast).
Midfielders – Blaine McClure (Linfield/Belfast Boys’ Model School), Rhys Walsh (Glentoran/De La Salle College, Belfast), Callum Burnside (Linfield/De La Salle College, Belfast), Cole Brannigan (Linfield/Edmund Rice College, Glengormley), Ryan Donnelly (Dungannon Swifts/Hazelwood College, Belfast), Ben McGonigle (Derry City/Limavady Grammar School), Fra Turley (Glentoran/St Malachy’s College, Belfast), Cormac Austin (Linfield/St Mary’s CBS, Belfast), Ciaran O’Hara (Derry City/St Mary’s Limavady).
Forwards – Kieran Morrison (Liverpool/Abraham Moss Community School, Manchester), Jay Dalzell (Ards/Bangor Academy), Jay McDowell (Linfield/St Mary’s CBS, Belfast).