St. Patrick's Day Centenary Shield opener for Schools team
The Under-18 FAI Schools (Boys) will start this year's Centenary Shield campaign on Wednesday afternoon (17 March) in Leah Victoria Park, Tullamore when they take on Northern Ireland (KO 2.30pm).
This will be the first competitive fixture in the competition for Manager Dave Archbold of Palmerstown Community School.
He will be hoping that home advantage will give the boys the edge they need to overcome a strong Northern side. Ireland had a 2-0 victory away to Northern Ireland last season and should be confident heading into the opening game.
The Irish are boosted by the return of a number of key players from last season, these include captain Tomas Boyle (Salesian College, Celbridge), Robbie Benson (Marist College, Athlone) Brian Nolan (St. Paul's Community College, Waterford) and Jason Dwane (St. Peter's College, Dunboyne).
The squad is further strengthened by the selection of Daragh Walshe (St. Kieran's College), Barry O'Mahony (Summerhill College), Daryl Horgan (St. Enda's College) Sean Skelly (St Joseph's Fairview), Tom O'Halloran (Athlone Community College) and goalkeeper Josh Byrne of De La Salle from Waterford. All of these players have emerged through the FAI's underage ranks and their experience will be vital to Ireland's success this season.
In preparation for the Centenary Shield, the Irish played a friendly match at the end of January when they beat Australia 3-1. On target that day for the Boys in Green were Daragh Walshe, Daryl Horgan and Marwin Azimi.
Archbold was delighted with the team dynamic and the match provided a good stepping stone in which to select a strong panel this season.
"The purpose of the game was to see all the players in action and each of the 20 got a decent run-out," he said.
"It's great for the boys to get a win in their opening match of the season but most impressive was their performance. Our two wingers caused Australia trouble, especially in the first half, and we were deserving winners against a big and powerful side."
Archbold is well aware of the threat posed by his Northern counterparts. Both England and Northern Ireland are joint holders of the Shield and the Northerners will be hoping that they can retain their title.
The Irish have an advantage heading into this big game knowing other results have gone in their favour which adds pressure on the North to perform away from home.
Bob Ramsey's side have already two matches under their belts having lost their opening match at home to England 1-4 on 26 February before playing out a 1-1 draw away to Scotland on 5 March.
In other ties, England were held to a goalless draw by Wales last week. The result means that England extends their lead by three points at the top of the Centenary Shield table.
The Irish have it all to play for as they face Wales away (25 March), Scotland home (2 April) and England away (30 April) on a round-robin basis during the course of the five-nation event.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD: Marty McGinty (Deele College), Josh Byrne (De La Salle), Brian Nolan (St Paul's CC), Nathan Murphy (Colaiste Ris); Jason Dwane (St. Peter's College), Tomas Boyle (Salesian College), Daryl Horgan (St. Enda's College, Galway), Barry O'Mahony (Summerhill College), Sean Skelly (St. Joseph's Fairview), Tom O'Halloran (Athlone CC), Daragh Walshe (St. Kieran's College), Marwan Azimi (Pobalscoil Rosmini) , Niall Cooney (Templeogue College), Gary Shaw (Patrician SS) Stephen Chambers (St. Fintan's), Jake Carroll (Confey CC, Leixlip), Hugh Douglas (St. Brendan's College), Robbie Benson (Marist College)
MANAGEMENT: Dave Archbold, Manager (Palmerstown CS), Ollie Horgan, Assistant Manager (St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny), Hugh Colhoun, Coach (St. Laurence College, Loughlinstown), Ian Carry, GK.