Northern Ireland’s Under-18 Schoolboys team will warm up for this year’s Centenary Shield competition by playing two matches in Jersey next week.
The 2019 shield winners and current holders - the 2020 edition was not completed due to Covid and last year’s competition was scrapped because of the pandemic - are due to face Jersey’s U18s and U21s in challenge matches.
The first game for Frankie Wilson’s side, on Monday (31 January), is against Jersey’s U18s. The second, against Jersey’s U21s, is scheduled for next Wednesday (2 February). Both matches are being staged at the Springfield Stadium in St Helier and will have 7pm starts.
Northern Ireland’s U18 Schoolboys will be competing for silverware - the Lynne Nicholson Trophy - in the second encounter. And they will be aiming to retain the trophy after then captain Trai Hume lifted it following a 3-0 victory over Jersey U21s back in February 2020.
U18s team boss Wilson, who has chosen an 18-strong squad for the trip to the Channel Islands, explained: "Games against Jersey are very useful as they give many of the boys their first taste of international football and are ideal preparation for the Centenary Shield campaign.”
In the SAFIB (Schools’ Association Football International Board) Centenary Shield, which is being staged in March and April, Northern Ireland will once again be competing against their counterparts in England, Scotland, Wales and Republic of Ireland.
The Northern Ireland team, run by the Northern Ireland Schools’ FA with support from the Irish Football Association, will begin their shield campaign away to Scotland on 3 March, followed by home matches against Wales and England at the Blanchflower Stadium (Harland and Wolff Welders FC) on 10 March and 25 March respectively. Their final game will see them take on the Republic away on 31 March.
Wilson further revealed: "It is a long season and I have invited Richard Clarke to join the coaching team. He played in the Centenary Shield in 2003 and 2004 before gaining international honours at U21 level and he will be able to pass on that knowledge to the team.
"He is vastly experienced and has won many honours, including two Irish League titles and the Irish Cup in a distinguished playing career with Omagh Town, Newry City, Glentoran, Crusaders and Ballinamallard United."
The Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys squad for the two matches in Jersey is as follows:
Goalkeepers - Rian Brown (Ashfield Boys’ High, Belfast/Glentoran), Alex Henderson (North West Regional College/Coleraine).
Defenders - Ryan McKay (Breda Academy, Belfast/Dundela), Ewan McCoubrey (Breda Academy/Linfield), Lewis Tosh (North West Regional College/Coleraine), Malachy Burns (St Malachy’s College, Belfast/Glenavon), Max Greer (Larne High School/Larne), Oscar McKenna (Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock, Belfast/Crusaders), Aidan Kelly (St Malachy’s College/Cliftonville), Odhran McCart (Larne High/Larne).
Midfielders - Donal Scullion (St Colman’s College, Newry/Newry City), Jack Montgomery (Breda Academy/Linfield), Jack McFeely (St Columb’s College, Derry-Londonderry/Coleraine), Patrick McLaughlin (Lumen Christi College, Derry-Londonderry/Institute), Caolan Donnelly (Larne High/Larne).
Forwards - Luca McGreevey (RBAI, Belfast/Glenavon), Patrick Kelly (Loreto College, Coleraine/Coleraine), Liam McStravick (Edmund Rice College, Glengormley/Cliftonville).
Image: Frankie Wilson led Northern Ireland’s U18 Schoolboys to Centenary Shield glory in 2019.