Ireland lose grip on Shield

THE Republic of Ireland’s hopes of retaining the U18 Centenary Shield ended last night at the Oval as cross-border rivals Northern Ireland took another step towards the title.

A lack of cutting edge in attack during the first half ultimately cost Ireland as the hosts scored twice in the final 20 minutes to seal their first home win in this fixture since 1995.

A 2-2 draw in their opener against Wales a fortnight ago meant Ireland’s hopes of keeping their title rested on avoiding defeat in Belfast but instead Northern Ireland extended their lead at the top of the table.

Ireland’s first attempt on goal didn’t arrive until 10 minutes into the second half when Hugh Douglas drew a save from Ross Glendinning and the North’s stopper denied Chris Lyons with a superb one-handed stop 10 minutes later.

Northern Ireland always carried a threat on the counter-attack and the opener came 19 minutes from full-time when Jude Winchester’s ball into the six-yard box gave Martin Murray the simple task of heading past the stranded Greg Murray.

Ireland looked to rescue an equaliser late on by switching to three at the back but Cathair Friel tucked home the second goal from close range in stoppage time.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Glendinning, J Robinson, Bonner, Carson (Friel 83), Hughes, McGuigan, Murray (Harkin 89), Quinn, T Robinson (McAleer 68), Rosato (Lowry 46), Winchester.

REP OF IRELAND: Murray (Phobailscoil Iosolde); Barker (Fingal CC), Cooney (Templeogue CC) (A Piggott, Tralee, 73), R McLaughlin (Carndonagh), Matthews (Clonkeen College, Blackrock); Merritt (Loreto CS, Milford) (T McNamee, Loreto CS, Milford, 83), Douglas (St Brendan’s College, Bray), Chambers (St Fintan’s), Kavanagh (Oatlands College) (Lane, Presentation College, Athenry, 61), C McLoughlin (Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana) (Timlin, Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, 46); Lyons (Presentation, Bray).

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Belfast).

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