The Wales U16 boys spent a productive week in Northern Ireland
While results didn’t go the way Wales U16 hoped at the 2017 Victory Shield, the annual tournament played a huge part in developing our top talent.
In recent years Ben Woodburn and Ethan Ampadu both appeared in the tournament and are now members of Chris Coleman’s national senior squad.
The pathway will be the same for this group of 2002 born players, who finished third at the annual showpiece tournament, hosted in Northern Ireland.
Ultimately the tournament is about development and preparing the players for the U17 UEFA qualifiers to come.
FAW Trust Technical Director Osian Roberts said: "The tournament was well organised and it was a good experience for our boys.
"The next stage of their development will be the UEFA U17 qualifiers and these players have learned so much, that's what it's about.
"Overall we've been pleased with their progress."
The tournament started with a pulsating 1-1 draw against Scotland, which featured a memorable goal from a Dan Malone free-kick.
Against eventual winners Republic of Ireland, Welsh hearts were broken by a last-gasp equaliser that denied Roberts’ boys three points and control of the group going into the final game.
Then, in the hours before the finale against the hosts, the holders retained the trophy by beating Scotland 2-0.
That meant a third Welsh Victory Shield win in four years was out of the reach and the resilient hosts claimed a 1-0 win, thanks to a goal from the penalty spot.
FAW Trust CEO Neil Ward was in Belfast for the tournament’s finale.
He said: “The Victory Shield presents a huge opportunity for our young players after a year's work in preparation for it.
“It gives them the opportunity to test themselves in a competition environment.
“Results are important but what's ultimately important is development.
“The programme is about bringing the next generation of talent through.
“The Victory Shield presents a great platform for our young players. Only two years ago Ben Woodburn and Ethan Ampadu were playing in this tournament. Now they're in the senior squad.
“It provided a springboard to them. That provides the motivation for this group of players to go on to represent the senior team too.”
During the week away, the boys also enjoyed an educational trip to George Best's grave and spent an afternoon on an open-top bus tour.
Wales 1-1 Scotland (Malone – Starrs)
Wales 2-2 Republic of Ireland (Madeline, Noble – Everitt, Oko-Flex)
Wales 0-1 Northern Ireland (Hutchinson)