HEAD COACH William O’CONNOR has named an eighteen strong panel for this season’s Centenary Shield crusade.
The comprehensive training schedule saw approximately 40 players observed over an eight day assessment period. O’Connor keyed up a number of competitive friendly games in the build up to the season with St. Patrick’s Athletic, Galway United, Dundalk FC, Bohemian FC, Jim Crawford’s U18 home based select and Colin O’Brien’s U17s all tested.
The initial trialing process was kicked off last November when FAI Schools hosted the annual Interprovincial Tournament which saw 64 top class scholars compete in a three day competition. Leinster secured the title on that occasion and it’s no surprise that a number of their key players will feature this season for O’Connor’s side.
Meath man Cian LEE who studies at Boyne Community School in Trim has made the cut alongside Dublin quintet of Riversdale Community College scholar Peter ADIGUN, Jack RYAN of Templeogue College, Lido LOTEFA of Balbriggan Community College, Ali REGBHA of Chanel College, Coolock and Jake WALKER of St. Kevin’s Community College, Clondalkin.
THREE of the 18 players selected have already been capped for the Republic of Ireland Schools in the Centenary Shield in 2017 with James CARROLL (St. Oliver’s Community School, Drogheda), Ronan MANNING (Yeats College and formerly of Calasanctius College, Oranmore) and Darryl WALSH (St. Declan’s College, Waterford) featuring extensively for former Head Coach Paddy O’Reilly.
Goalkeeper Daniel HOUGHTON and Kieran FARREN who both attend Carndonagh Community School will be called into action this time out. The Donegal duo will be joined by Ulster talisman Adam O’CONNOR who currently applies his academic trade in St. Clare’s College, Ballyjamesduff.
Sligo native Liam KERRIGAN who is a pupil at St. Attracta’s Community School, Tubbercurry will relish his International call up accompanied by Connacht netminder Luke McNICHOLAS of Balla Secondary School and Adam ROONEY of Yeats College, Galway.
St. Francis College, Rochestown starlet Rory DOYLE has been given the green light for this showdown with Waterford’s Adam CONWAY who represents De La Salle College in the City as does Cahir prodigy Cian MURPHY of Coláiste Dun Íascaigh, all making the mix for the Southerners
Balbriggan Community College mentor William O’Connor will be assisted this season by Dublin Oak Academy, Bray tutor John McSHANE as Coach, Athlone Community College teacher Conor FOLEY as Goalkeeping Coach and veteran Ollie HORGAN who teaches in St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny will act as Performance Analyst.
The 2018 series will see the Republic of Ireland with two consecutive away fixtures as the BOYS IN GREEN commence battle.
The team will travel to ‘the Rock’ in Cefn Druids to take on the Welsh Dragons in a fortnight’s time. Wales will be looking to avenge last year’s performance which saw them plunge at the death. Late drama at Whitehall saw the Republic of Ireland snatch an injury time winner from the penalty spot courtesy of Clonkeen College student Seán McDonald to claim an auspicious opening victory, 2-1.
A month later the Irish students will visit Luton Town to take on their hosts England in what should prove to be one of their toughest tests in the four match programme. In a game to forget, the Irish lost 5-2 at home to the three lions last season.
England are always title contenders and they shared the spoils with Northern Ireland in the previous campaign so our title ambitions may be resting on this game. O’Connor’s crew will be hoping to celebrate the St. Patrick’s weekend with all three points in the bag.
Northern Ireland will be the Republic’s penultimate fixture at the end of March. It’s always a humdinger with little between the two sides. The Republic of Ireland select came from a goal down at half time to finish with a late flourish thanks to an 80th minute equaliser from Carrigaline star Alec Byrne followed up four minutes later by St. Andrew’s scholar Neil Farrugia to bag the match winner.
The North obviously overcame this narrow defeat to claim the Shield in 2017 with England. Another massive game for Frankie Wilson and Co. who will be hoping to retain the title outright in 2018.
The Republic of Ireland will wrap up proceedings in Home Farm FC in April when Scotland come to visit. The Irish dropped vital points against the tartan army last year with a solidarity goal coming ten minutes in courtesy of their Captain Kyle Banner.
In his first term at the helm, O’Connor will want to stamp his authority early on. The first two games away from home aren’t ideal but if he gets a win and a draw, it leaves it all to play for in the final two home ties. No doubt four massive performances are required to keep his title ambitions alive.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND | Daniel Houghton & Kieran Farren (Carndonagh Community School), Adam O’Connor (St. Clare’s College, Ballyjamesduff), James Carroll (St. Oliver’s Community College, Drogheda), Luke McNicholas (Balla Secondary School), Darryl Walsh (St. Declan’s Community College), Ronan Manning & Adam Rooney (Yeats College, Galway), Liam Kerrigan (St. Attracta’s CS, Tubbercurry), Cian Lee (Boyne Community School), Peter Adigun (Riversdale Community College), Ali Regbha (Chanel College, Coolock), Jack Ryan (Templeogue College), Jake Walker (St. Kevin’s Community College, Clondalkin) Lido Lofeta (Balbriggan Community College), Rory Doyle (St. Francis College, Rochestown), Cian Murphy (Coláiste Dun Iascaigh, Cahir), Adam Conway (De La Salle College, Waterford)
MANAGEMENT | Head Coach William O’Connor (Balbriggan Community College), Coach John McShane (Dublin Oak Academy, Bray), GK Coach Conor Foley (Athlone Community College), Performance Analyst Ollie Horgan (St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny), Kit Manager Paul Masterson, Physio Mickey McGlynn, Doctor Aiden O’Colmain.
2018 Centenary Shield Fixtures List
February 15 Wales vs Republic of Ireland The Rock, Cefn Druids FC (7pm)
March 9 Scotland vs Northern Ireland Greenock Morton FC (7pm)
March 15 Northern Ireland vs Wales Belfast (2pm)
March 16 England vs Republic of Ireland Kenilworth Stadium, Luton Town FC (7pm)
March 23 England vs Scotland Bootham Crescent, York City FC (7pm)
March 29 Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland Monaghan United FC (2pm)
March 29 Wales vs England Cardiff Metropolitan University FC (7pm)
April 6 Northern Ireland vs England Belfast (7pm)
April 12 Republic of Ireland vs Scotland Home Farm FC (2pm)
April 19 Scotland vs Wales Queen of the South FC (7pm)