Three Northern Ireland youth internationals are basking in cup glory today after helping West Ham United win the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1999.
Callum Marshall, Patrick Kelly and Josh Briggs all featured in the young Hammers side who thrashed Arsenal 5-1 in the Youth Cup final at the Emirates Stadium in London last night.
And Marshall and Briggs, who are both graduates of the Irish FA JD Academy in collaboration with UEFA based at Ulster University Jordanstown, also got on the scoresheet for West Ham’s U18s in front of 34,124 fans.
Ex-Linfield striker Marshall, who has already netted more than 20 goals this season, scored West Ham’s second to put them in the driving seat.
Omari Benjamin gave the Gunners an early lead with a wonderful hit, however a superb George Earthy strike drew West Ham level.
Marshall showed his predatory instincts as he guided home Gideon Kodua's pinpoint cross from six yards to edge the Hammers in front before captain Kodua produced a classy lob from 35 yards to make it 3-1 before the interval.
Arsenal piled forward after the break but could not break down a resolute Hammers defence.
In the closing stages Kaelan Casey headed in Ollie Scarles' cross at the back post to make it 4-1 before ex-Linfield defender Briggs, who had appeared from the substitutes bench in the 89th minute, put the icing on the cake by scoring from four yards out with his first touch in the match.
Both Marshall and former Coleraine player Kelly, who was part of the JD Club NI set-up as a youngster, played the full 90 minutes for the young Hammers, who have also been crowned U18 Premier League South division champions this season.
Kevin Keen, the West Ham U18s coach, said afterwards: “This is my 40th year in football and that’s the proudest I’ve ever been. It’s a massive moment for a club that is very well known for our academy and hopefully some of them can go on to have really strong careers for the club.”
West Ham last won the Youth Cup 24 years ago when Michael Carrick and Joe Cole were part of the side that beat Coventry City 9-0 across two legs.
Image: Patrick Kelly (front, far right) and Callum Marshall (back, far right) line up with their West Ham team-mates at the Emirates.