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Monday 24 Jun 2024
‘We did not let ourselves down’ – Carvill

As Northern Ireland looks forward to hosting the U19 Euros next month, Michael Carvill shares his memories of when the Irish FA first hosted the tournament back in 2005.

Carvill was one of 18 players chosen to represent his country at the U19 Euros some 19 years ago.

The team were managed by legendary Northern Ireland defender Mal Donaghy. 

Unfortunately they did not make it beyond the group stages. They lost 1-0 to Greece in their opening game before losing by the same margin against a strong Serbia and Montenegro team. In their final group game they were beaten 2-1 by Germany. France were the overall winners of the tournament, defeating England in the final. 

Carvill, who was with Charlton Athletic at the time, recalls: “I remember being the youngest player there and recall a training game at Newforge led by Mal Donaghy and Seamus Heath. 

“Our Under-17 team had qualified for the elite stages of their competition previously and I loved it. I didn’t really have any fear and was keen to play. Kieran McKenna (now manager of Ipswich Town) was in our squad. He was a class act and looked after me from the start. We stayed in the Europa Hotel in Belfast and I remember thinking this was elite level.” 

Carvill insists Northern Ireland were not out of their depth in the tournament. 

He said: “We did very well and didn’t let ourselves down. I played in the second game against Serbia in Newry and remember it well. 

“I had a great game. We lost narrowly against a team of giants and technically superior players. We had a good group of players and under Mal and Seamy we were well organised and afraid of no-one.” 

He pointed out that several players in the squads of the other participating countries were “on a different level”. 

“I think Grant Leadbitter, Lee Holmes and Mark Noble (all England) were breaking into Premier League clubs, while Germany had now legendary keeper Manuel Neuer and striker Kevin-Prince Boateng who went on to play for AC Milan. The French had classy midfielder Yohan Cabaye and others, so to be able to be part of it was an unreal experience.”

He said the games were well attended, although they were not promoted as well as international games are these days. 

“I always remember Eurosport were covering the games, and this added to the excitement around the camp,” he explained. 

Carvill, who played on the wing and in midfield during his career, said Neuer stood out as a quality player, while Boateng had flair and skill and was technically gifted.

He did not attend the final, however he remembers watching it on TV. He said the French deserved to win it. 

Carvill, who founded the Professional Footballers’ Association Northern Ireland, was released by Charlton in 2007. He then had a spell with Wrexham before returning home to Northern Ireland. 

Between 2008 and 2015 he starred for Linfield, winning three Irish Premiership titles, three Irish Cups and a Co Antrim Shield.

He then switched to Crusaders with whom he won two Irish Premiership titles before moving on to Dungannon Swifts in 2019. These days the 36-year-old is player-manager with Co Down team Kilmore Rec, who play in Division 1A (intermediate) of the Amateur League.

Carvill, who works as Elite Coach Education Lead at the Irish FA, further pointed out: “It was a great experience to play against the elite players in Europe, and it’s something I will always remember. 

“We did ourselves proud, especially against the Germans. We put in a strong performance against them. I loved my U17 and U19 international days as it was the best v best.” 

He said he can’t wait for this summer’s U19 Euros to begin.

“Our U19s manager Gareth McAuley will have his team well prepared. As part of our UEFA A Diploma we are bringing the candidates to the games so it will be a great learning experience for them.

“Obviously I am keen to support the Northern Ireland players and Irish FA staff.” 

He also offered some advice to our players ahead of the tournament. 

“Enjoy it, go and make a name for yourself and fear no-one,” he said. 

The 18-strong Northern Ireland U19s squad in 2005 featured:

Goalkeepers – Jonathan Tuffey (Coventry City), Paul Willis (Liverpool). 

Defenders – Paul Hamilton (Linfield), Kyle McVey (Coleraine), Rory McArdle (Sheffield Wednesday), Aaron Callaghan (Limavady United), Dermot McCaffrey (Hibernian).

Midfielders – Kieran McKenna (Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Turner (Derby County), Andrew Cleary (Lisburn Distillery), Aidan Watson (Glentoran), David Buchanan (Bury), Jonny Steele (Baltimore Blast, USA). 

Forwards – Michael Carvill (Charlton Athletic), Thomas Stewart (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Daryl Fordyce (Portsmouth), Matthew Doherty (Hearts), Paul McCrink (Coventry City).

Image: Michael Carvill, seen here celebrating after scoring for Crusaders in 2018, enjoyed the U19 Euros experience back in 2005.