In 1973 the Scottish FA presented the Centenary Shield to the Schools Association Football International Board to mark the Association’s centenary year. The trophy is contested annually by U18 Schoolboys from each of the countries across the British Isles.
This year’s edition began last Thursday as Scotland and the Republic of Ireland played out a 0-0 draw in the opening match at New Western Park, home of Renfrew FC.
The visitors had the better of the chances throughout the 90 minutes, but the Scots stood firm to ensure that they would avoid beginning the tournament with a defeat.
Ireland started the better of the two sides and got their first chance in the 8th minute. Niall Holohan launched the ball down the left wing in search of Aidan Russell Vargas. Jamie Carnihan tried his best to shield it out of play safely but the referee ruled it to have taken a nick off his right boot under the pressure of the Irish winger and awarded the visitors a corner.
Callum Bonner whipped his cross towards Senan Mullen at the back post who volleyed the ball towards goal, but Carnihan threw himself in front of the shot to prevent an early opener.
In the 15th minute, it was déjà vu for Ireland. Martin Campbell headed behind a long throw to concede another corner for Scotland. Bonner stepped up again and delivered a nearly identical cross this time to Holohan. The defender met the delivery on the volley but saw his effort cannon off the top of the crossbar.
Ireland continued on the ascendancy and got their next opportunity in the 25th minute. After a tussle on the right-wing Jonathan Adedeji nipped in to take the ball from Ricky Waugh. The fullback then pulled out some incredible footwork to dance past two defenders and drive into the box. He cut the ball back to Eoin Kenny who was lurking just outside the six-yard box, but Andrew Miller slid in well to deny the shot at goal.
Despite his terrific crossing earlier in the game, Bonner had his head in his hands wondering how he failed to put his side in front four minutes from half-time. Miller completely misjudged Holohan’s clearance and headed the ball straight into the path of Bonner. The winger drove in on goal but fired his shot over the crossbar from the edge of the box with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Scotland did work hard to try to find an opening but failed to create any clear-cut chances in the first half. A lovely passing play on the stroke of half-time allowed Waugh to find space in the Irish defence to thread a pass to Nathan Cannon on the left wing. The midfielder attempted to cut the ball back to Jayden McGivern, but Harris Clubb got across well to clean up any potential danger.
The two minutes of injury time fizzled out to conclude a dominant Irish first-half performance.
The rivalry showed throughout the match as both sides battled hard and put in some wild tackles. Jesse Dempsey tussled hard on the left wing and backheeled the ball brilliantly through McGivern legs. Kenny skipped onto the ball but was completely wiped out by Waugh forcing the referee to produce the first yellow card of the match.
Scotland’s next chance came at the hour mark. Miller played a lovely ball down the left wing to Aaron Nicholson who flashed a ball across goal, but Cannon failed to connect with the cross.
A nervy final half-hour followed with neither side managing to test their opponent’s goalkeeper. Ireland came close with a corner five minutes from time but Nathan Smith failed to keep his back post header on the right side of the post. He then took the ball on the turn at the edge of the box in the dying moments of injury time but shot wide of the left post, bringing the game to a goalless conclusion.
Scotland will feel happy to have managed to weather the Irish first-half storm and to have taken a good point at the start of the tournament. They will hope to build on this on Thursday when they visit Northern Ireland at Harland and Woolf Welders’ FC’s Blanchflower stadium in Belfast.
Scotland Player of the Match: Ricky Waugh
The Hibernian midfielder worked tirelessly throughout the match to dictate Scotland’s attacking play and made some good challenges to protect his side’s backline.
Republic of Ireland Player of the Match: Callum Bonner
Despite his one-on-one miss in the first half, Bonner was the key creative source for the Republic of Ireland and gave his side numerous opportunities to break the deadlock with some outstanding deliveries, particularly from dead balls.
Scotland U18 Schoolboys
1. Ethan Mitchell
2. Andrew Miller
3. Callum Hannah
4. Andrew Miller
5. Harris Clubb (C)
6. Nathan Smith
8. Martin Campbell
9. Aaron Nicholson
10. Ricky Waugh
11. Nathan Cannon
18. Jayden McGivern
12. Corey Armour
7. Joe Prior
14. Ruairidh Cant
15. Daniel Mason-Bone
16. Calum Gemmell
Republic of Ireland U18 Schoolboys
1. Ryan Delaney
2. Jonathan Adedeji
3. Jesse Dempsay
4. Eli Rooney
5. Niall Holohan
6. Senan Mullen
7. Callum Bonner
8. Aaron Healy (C)
9. Peter Grogan
11. Eoin Kenny
15. Aidan Russell Vargas
10. Rhys Kelly Noonan
12. Adam O’Halloran
13. Ryan McBrearty
14. Brian Cunningham
15. Daithi Forlan
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