Northern Ireland’s Under-18s are set to play Manchester United’s U18s twice next week as part of this year’s SuperCupNI tournament.
The games, in Coleraine and Ballymena, are being billed as elite challenge matches and Northern Ireland U19s/U17s boss Gerard Lyttle says they will provide an opportunity for his U18 players to test themselves against a top class team.
Lyttle has chosen a 21-strong panel for the matches at Coleraine Showgrounds (Monday 25 July, 7.30pm kick-off) and Ballymena Showgrounds (Wednesday 27 July, 7.30pm start).
His squad bridges the gap between Northern Ireland’s U19 and U17 teams – and mainly consists of players who have previously represented Northern Ireland at U17 level.
Lyttle said: “It’s important to keep continuity between the U17s and U19s. Several players who are with clubs in England and Scotland have just completed pre-season so they have not been included.
“However, my squads usually feature lots of players from NIFL Premiership and League of Ireland clubs so I see this as an opportunity for players based here to once again show what they can do.
“It will be a massive test for the boys against such highly rated opposition. However, I have no doubt the players will rise to the occasion.
“There are U19 Euro qualifiers this autumn and I am sure the players in this squad will want to be part of that squad as well.”
His panel includes three newcomers to the Northern Ireland set-up. They are Accrington Stanley winger Lewis Trickett, Derry City defender Conor Barr and Dundalk midfielder Eoin Kenny.
It also features six players who were part of the Northern Ireland U19s squad that travelled to Malta for friendlies last month and registered two wins out of two. The players who faced the Maltese were goalkeeper Pierce Charles, defenders Daithi McCallion and Reece Jordan, midfielders Aaron Wightman and Sam Glenfield plus striker Conor Scannell.
Northern Ireland U18s squad for SuperCupNI:
Goalkeepers – Pierce Charles (Sheffield Wednesday), Kai McClean (Celtic).
Defenders – Conor Barr, Daithi McCallion, Darragh McCloskey (all Derry City), Ordhan McCart and Sean Brown (both Larne), Reece Jordan (Portadown), Bayley McCann (Peterborough United).
Midfielders – Jack Patterson (Everton), Lewis Trickett (Accrington Stanley), Caolan Donnelly (Larne), Rio Morgan (Ipswich Town), Aaron Wightman (Glentoran), Sam Glenfield (Fleetwood Town), Eoin Kenny (Dundalk).
Forwards - Conor Scannell (Glenavon), Leon Boyd (Linfield), Reece Evans (Leicester City), Shea Brennan (Larne), Luca Doherty (Derry City).
This year’s SuperCupNI, sponsored by STATSports, will run from 24 to 29 July, with the traditional parade and opening ceremony at Coleraine Showgrounds kicking off proceedings this Sunday (7pm).
Teams from around the world are due to compete at U13, U14, U16 and U18 level - at 17 venues across the council areas of Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey.
For further information, including how to purchase tickets for the Northern Ireland U18 v Manchester United U18 elite challenge matches and other games, visit www.supercupni.com