The Northern Ireland U18 squad knew that with a win away in Cardiff they would at very least share the trophy this year depending on other results. Frankie Wilsons men duly delivered with a comprehensive 3-0 win to end a fantastic season for the team. Northern Ireland must now wait for the result of tonight’s game between England and the Republic of Ireland to see if they share the trophy or win it outright with everyone hoping for a draw.
The match in Cardiff came to life in the second half when a stubborn Welsh defence was unlocked by a delightful 20 yard free kick by Ryan Strain. It was two to the away side shortly after when a through ball send Daniel Reynolds in on goal who made no mistake striking the ball into the corner. The final goal came late on when Niall Owens was upended in the penalty area, Eamon Scannell stepped up and made no mistake with the spot kick.
Frankie Wilson was understandable delighted with the squad “It's not often as a manager you have a feeling of contentment. Last nights win in Wales was extra special. Despite being in total control we couldn't get the goal. We missed a conservative 10 guilt edged chances. But as Niall Owens said ' this team would always find a way.'
Readers will not realise that this process started last year scouting at the Milk Cup. It progressed to trial of over 120 boys throughout NI. We travelled to Derry, south Armagh, Magherafelt and Belfast to get a squad. Each Sunday since November we have been in working with the squad. Coach Brian Donaghy sessions were both innovative and challenging with possession and retention being important elements. Eamon Curry and Newry high schools Simon Nicks assisted as goalkeeping coach and defence coach. Kit man Adam Steed was as ever brilliantly organised. Our Physio Linda was most professional and secretary Bob Ramsey was forever the wise old head.
After the game I said to the boys that these wins will be forever remembered. To beat England 4-1 away from home and score 2 in last 5 mins against Scotland will live long in the memory. One sad part was that my old teacher and NISFA secretary Martin Donaghy passed away before Christmas and didn't see us do so well in centenary shield. The win was also dedicated to my friend and co manager last year Conor Marlin who had to leave our shores to find work in football. We had a little luck this year a commodity we didn't have in last 3 years. I told the boys that they should bask in the glory as it's not often a team from NI outplay and dominate and a win tournaments.”