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Thursday 19 Oct 2023
Northern Ireland U17s set to play in Euro qualifiers in Italy

Northern Ireland’s men’s Under-17 team will be aiming to reach the elite round of U17 Euro qualifiers for a second season in a row when they take part in a qualifying round mini tournament later this month.

Last autumn the U17s booked a place in the U17 Euro 2023 elite round thanks to a win over Malta and a draw with Czechia in a mini tournament. They were also defeated by Scotland.

This season they will be taking on Italy, Greece and San Marino in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round for a place in the elite round next spring.

The U17 team will now operate under Elite Player Development, the decision coming after a review of the pathway led by Irish FA Technical Director, Aaron Hughes, with U19, U21 and the senior team remaining in the Elite Competition phase.

U17 coaches Andy Waterworth and Kris Lindsay have chosen a 20-strong panel for the Group 11 mini tournament, which is being hosted by Italy in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

First up for the U17s is a game against Greece next Wednesday (25 October). The game is due to be staged at the Stadio Germano Todoli in Cervia (11am UK time).

Their second match will be against the Italians on Saturday 28 October (2pm). The venue is the Valentino Mazzola ground in Santarcangelo di Romagna.

San Marino will provide the opposition in their final group game. That encounter is scheduled for Tuesday 31 October at the Valentino Mazzola (2pm).

The top two teams in 13 qualifying round groups this autumn will progress to the elite round along with the five third-placed teams with the best records against the top two in their section.

A total of 52 nations are involved in the qualifying round: the 54 entrants minus hosts Cyprus (who qualify directly for the final tournament) and top seeds Netherlands (who enter in the elite round).

March's elite round will decide the 15 teams joining Cyprus in the final tournament from 20 May to 5 June next year.

Waterworth and Lindsay will be supported in Italy by Northern Ireland U19s boss Gareth McAuley.

Northern Ireland U17 squad

Goalkeepers – Will Murdock (Manchester United), Owen Grainger (Leeds United).

Defenders – Alex Watson and Callum Leacock (both Linfield), Keevan Hawthorne (Cliftonville), Calum Moreland (Aston Villa), Conor Haughey (Fleetwood Town), Alfie Friars (Derry City).

Midfielders – Blaine McClure and Callum Burnside (both Rangers), Jack Doherty (Fleetwood Town), Dylan Stitt (Luton Town), Senan Devine (Coleraine), Troy Savage (Glenavon).

Forwards – Ceadach O’Neill and Braiden Graham (both Linfield), Cole Brannigan (Aston Villa), Chris Atherton (Glenavon), Oscar Kelly (Rochdale), George Feeney (Glentoran).