Northern Ireland’s Under-16s lost to the Republic of Ireland in their final Victory Shield 2023 match staged in north Wales this afternoon.
SAFIB Victory Shield
Northern Ireland U16s 1 Republic of Ireland U16s 3
Northern Ireland: Glenn McCourt (27')
Republic of Ireland: Grady McDonnell (4'), Michael Noonan (51'), Billy O'Neill (78')
The Rock, Cefn Druids FC
11 November 2023
This was the Northern Ireland U16 Schoolboys’ third and final match in this year’s Victory Shield competition, following draws with hosts Cymru (Wales) and Scotland.
Keeper Milo Beimers captained the side, while there was a first appearance in the series for Sidney Eldred.
How it happened
The Republic of Ireland needed just four minutes to open the scoring when, from a Max Kovalevskis left-sided corner, Grady McDonnell rose highest to send a bullet header past the keeper.
The Kovalevskis-McDonnell partnership almost paid dividends again after a quarter-of-an-hour when another set piece, this time a corner from the right, was floated over only for McDonnell to glance his header just wide of the target.
It proved to be a first half of few opportunities at either end, but Northern Ireland did level on 27 minutes.
Ceadach O'Neill, on the counter attack, laid the ball off for Christopher Atherton wide on the right. Atherton did well to hold it up before instigating a flowing team move with the ball eventually falling - via a double deflection - for Glenn McCourt on the edge of the six-yard box, and he showed great awareness to react quickly and slot the ball past keeper Alex Noonan.
The Republic, who had already won the tournament following victories over Scotland and Wales earlier in the week, might have regained the advantage a couple of minutes from the break when a long punt forward from Noonan reached Brody Lee who, in turn, cut the ball back for McDonnell but his instinctive effort from inside the area was gratefully gathered by Robinson.
Half-time: Northern Ireland U16s 1 Republic of Ireland U16s 1
Starting off quietly, the second half soon roared into life on 51 minutes when the Republic restored their lead. The dangerous Kovalevskis again showed his threat with a cross from the left which Michael Noonan met to power home a header.
Not to be disheartened, Northern Ireland might have levelled again just before the hour mark through George Feeney - only on the pitch a matter of moments - but his shot from inside the area was charged down by substitute keeper Ali Topcu.
Noonan had a chance to double his tally for the afternoon soon after at the other end but he could only skew his shot wide of an open goal after connecting with Lee's cross.
Kris Lindsay's side almost drew level on 73 minutes through a thunderous Christian Coyle effort from outside the area which Topcu did well to push out, with Kallum Thompson subsequently unable to convert the rebound.
But the Republic made sure of the points with a couple of minutes remaining thanks to a sublime curling right-foot effort from the edge of the area from substitute Billy O'Neill.
Full-time: Northern Ireland U16s 1 Republic of Ireland U16s 3
Northern Ireland U16s: Milo Beimers, Alex Watson, Darragh McCann, Noah McDonnell, Troy Savage, Chris Atherton, Matthew Burns, Ceadach O'Neill, Callum Leacock, Glenn McCourt, Sidney Eldred
Substitutes (used): George Feeney, Scott, Hamilton, Christian Coyle, Kalum Thompson, Jack Faloona, Harry Moran. Substitutes (unused): Zak Robinson, Jayden Charnley, Callum Anderson, Harry Allen, Aron KC
Republic of Ireland U16s: Alex Noonan, Max Kovalevskis, Oisin McDonagh, Sam Steward, Rory Finneran, Brody Lee, Michael Noonan, Billy Hayes, Grady McDonnell, Mohammed Oladiti, Jay McEvoy
Substitutes: Ali Topcu, Cead McGrath, Ramon Martos, Jaden Umeh, Oskar Skoubo Kelly, Daniel Costello, Billy O'Neill, Cillian Tollett, Finn Sherlock, Goodness Ogbonna, Kian McMahon-Brown