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Monday 20 Mar 2023
WU16s secure second victory at UEFA tournament in Bulgaria

Northern Ireland Women’s Under-16s signed off from a UEFA WU16 development tournament in Bulgaria with a second victory.

After losing narrowly to the Bulgarians in game one, and defeating North Macedonia in their second outing, the WU16s completed the four-team mini tournament with a second win.

They produced some fine attacking football as they defeated Montenegro 3-1 at the Stadium Albena complex in the Black Sea resort of Albena. Jessica McGuinness netted a hat-trick, including two penalties.

Showing two changes from the side that defeated the Macedonians, Northern Ireland started brightly against the Montenegrins.

Gracie Conway and Eva Myles had early chances before Conway was upended in the area on 20 minutes and McGuinness stepped up to drive home the resulting penalty.

Minutes later a half-volley from McGuinness was blocked on the line and then Sophie Kelly-Bradley, who had scored twice against the Macedonians, had an effort cleared off the line.

Montenegro equalised on 35 minutes via a long range effort before Myles let fly from 35 yards. Her shot drifted just wide of the post.

The second half was a pretty tight affair, with few chances created and both defences on top, until McGuinness scored from the spot once again in the 76th minute. Niamh Hassan was impeded by a defender inside the area and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. McGuinness drove the penalty into the bottom corner.

McGuinness completed her hat-trick seven minutes later. A Montenegro clearance from a corner fell to her on the edge of the area and McGuinness drove the ball home through a sea of players.

Conway was unlucky not to add to Northern Ireland’s tally when she swept forward with a few minutes left on the clock during yesterday's encounter. She jinked past three defenders before her well struck effort from 15 yards was saved by the Montenegrin keeper.

Afterwards WU16s coach Stevie Graham said: “It was an outstanding performance from the girls both individually and collectively, most notably in the first half when they created several goalscoring opportunities.

“It was a very disciplined and positive second half performance to secure a very rewarding result to conclude an excellent tournament for these young players.”

Northern Ireland WU16s line-up v Montenegro: Kate Smith, Jessica Mulholland, Anastasia Stanyte, Ellen Hampton, Zoe Knox, Anna Walsh, Jessica McGuinness, Gracie Conway, Niamh Hassan, Sophie Kelly-Bradley, Eva Myles.

Substitutes: Clodagh Maguire (45’), Lillie Horner, Caitlin Carlisle, Erin Boyle (all 52’), Kirsten Farley (60’), Eden Donnan (70’); (unused) Abbie Smith (GK), Laurie Bell, Mia Reilly.