After the tie in Romania, Michael O’Neill praises the young stars of Northern Ireland.

After the tie in Romania, Michael O'Neill praises the young stars of Northern Ireland.

Michael O’Neill commended the determination of his youthful Northern Ireland team as they took on Romania and achieved a positive 1-1 tie in Bucharest.

This past week, O’Neill discussed a potential “renewal” for Northern Ireland, moving on from a letdown in their Euro 2024 qualifiers and focusing on the future with a young group of players. O’Neill selected a starting lineup with an average age of 23.5 and was pleased with their performance.

Jamie Reid made his debut as the oldest player, at 29 years old, in the starting lineup. Despite this, the Stevenage striker quickly made an impact on his international career by scoring in the seventh minute and securing an early lead for Northern Ireland. However, Dennis Man of the team hosting the Euro 2024 tournament equalized midway through the first half.

“We have many positive points in our performance,” stated O’Neill, “It was a great opening, with an excellent goal that showcases our team’s energy, athleticism, and high quality of play.”

The players’ attitude was top-notch. We had four 20-year-old players who began and ended the game. None of our players were over the age of 30.

“Jamie Reid was our oldest player and it was his first cap so to come here against an experienced Romania team that have qualified for the finals and play as we did is very encouraging.”

Rewritten: Reid was selected for the team due to his eligibility through his maternal grandmother. He earned his spot with an impressive record of 21 goals in 44 games. Despite not playing for Northern Ireland Under-21s for over a decade, he was given the opportunity to start.

“During training, I appreciated his appearance and noticed his positive energy and strong motivation to succeed,” stated O’Neill. “He showed keen interest by asking many questions. I had a positive gut feeling and thought, ‘why not give him a chance?'”

Our strikers have a lot on their plate, especially in away games. They are required to put in a lot of effort and know their responsibilities when our team does not have the ball. They must comprehend and execute tactics for retaining possession and contributing to counter-attacks, and I believe he fulfilled these expectations.

“He was up against (Tottenham’s Radu) Dragusin, a very physical centre-back and he more than held is his own, this is a lad that’s coming from League One football with Stevenage and if you watched the game you certainly wouldn’t have thought that.”

Although Reid received the majority of attention, the performance of Northern Ireland’s young players was what truly stood out as a step towards future development.

20-year-old Conor Bradley and Shea Charles worked together to assist Reid in scoring the goal. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Isaac Price, 19-year-old Brodie Spencer, and 22-year-old Trai Hume all put on impressive performances.

“It’s brilliant,” O’Neill said. “That right-hand side of the pitch, Trai, Conor, Shea Charles, Isaac Price – they could have all played for our under-21s last night.

“They possess true skill and physical ability, and their formidable mindset was on display. Isaac tirelessly contributed, despite not receiving recognition, but provided our team with excellent stability. Conor consistently showcases his potential as a player whenever he plays, and he proved it once again.”