Northern Ireland’s Under-18 Schoolboys began their latest Centenary Shield campaign with a hard-fought draw against Scotland U18 Schoolboys in Belfast.
SAFIB Centenary Shield in association with Hummel
Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys 1-1Scotland U18 Schoolboys
Northern Ireland – Morgan (5’)
Scotland – Downie (44’)
Blanchflower Stadium, Belfast
Simon Nicks chose an 18-strong panel for his first competitive game in charge of the Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys side.
The bulk of the panel was made up of players who competed in warm-up matches against teams from Australia and Jersey in January and February.
Before kick-off both teams observed a minute’s applause in memory of Frankie Wilson, who passed away in October. Frankie managed the Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys team from 2014 until 2022. New boss Nicks was previously his assistant.
How it happened
Northern Ireland took the lead after just five minutes. Striker Michael Morgan picked the ball up deep and sped towards goal before slipping the ball to midfielder Corey Smith and he drilled it home from 10 yards. It was a neat finish.
Around the 20-minute mark Scotland midfielder Ricky Waugh produced an excellent run and shot, however his effort was tipped away by Northern Ireland keeper Rian Brown, who was called into action once again minutes later to make another decent stop from a Jayden McGivern drive.
Morgan tormented the Scottish defence on 30 minutes and fired a low shot just wide of the post.
Scotland spent much of the first period camped in Northern Ireland’s half of the pitch, however the home defence stood firm.
As half-time approached Scotland centre back Harris Clubb headed straight at Rian Brown after getting on the end of a free-kick, while down the other end winger Sean Brown scooped a shot wide. And then Morgan and Sean Brown hit the post and bar in quick succession before Scotland levelled on 44 minutes when Lewis Downie headed powerfully past Rian Brown.
Half-time: Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys 1-1 Scotland U18 Schoolboys
Northern Ireland started the second half in positive fashion, enjoying more possession. Full-back Ben Walker whipped in a couple of fine deliveries, from a corner and a free-kick, however his team-mates failed to meet them.
Scotland substitute Nathan Cannon tested Brown with a low shot, while Scotland captain Martin Campbell shot straight at the Northern Ireland keeper.
Chances were few and far between as the two defences flexed their muscles. Northern Ireland captain Odhran McCart and Oisin Devlin, who switched to centre back following the departure of Logan Wallace through injury, were extremely solid.
Sean Brown’s rasping drive was pushed away by Scottish keeper Corey Armour and Caolin Donnelly shot over the top for the home side before Scotland substitute Joe Prior shot straight at Rian Brown and Sean Brown put an effort wide of the target.
A draw was a fair result in the end. Scotland bossed the first half, while Northern Ireland were on top after the break. Both sides created opportunities, however there were few clearcut chances.
Next up for the U18 Schoolboys is an encounter with Wales on Thursday 23 March. They will take on the Welsh U18 Schoolboys at Briton Ferry Llansawel AFC’s ground near Swansea (7pm kick-off).
Full-time: Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys 1-1 Scotland U18 Schoolboys
Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys: Rian Brown, Callan Farley, Ben Walker, Logan Wallace (Adhamh Towe 46’), Odhran McCart (captain), Oisin Devlin, Corey Smith (Jack Hastings 71’), Caolin Donnelly, Michael Morgan, Luca Doherty (Charlie Chapman 49’), Sean Brown.
Substitutes (unused): Ryan Kerr (GK), Ben McGonigle, Jake Martin, Joshua Ness.
Scotland U18 Schoolboys: Corey Armour, Jamie Carnihan, Callum Hannah, Andrew Miller, Harris Clubb, Nathan Smith, Jayden McGivern, Martin Campbell (captain), Aaron Nicholson, Ricky Waugh, Lewis Downie.
Substitutes: Ethan Mitchell (GK), Joe Prior, Nathan Cannon, Ruaridh Cant, Daniel Mason-Bone, Calum Gemmel.