NI Under-19s train in Ballyclare

Liverpool's Ryan McLaughlin trained with the Northern Ireland under-19s in Ballyclare today.
Liverpool's Ryan McLaughlin trained with the Northern Ireland under-19s in Ballyclare today.

Northern Ireland’s under-19s squad - which includes Liverpool defender Ryan McLaughlin - trained in Ballyclare this morning.

The players took cover from the heavy rain at The Soccer Shed where they went through a light recovery session following last night’s 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic in a UEFA European Championship qualifier. Tomorrow evening they take on Greece at Stangmore Park (7pm).

Former Northern Ireland international Stephen Craigan, now assistant manager with the squad, told the Times: “We are staying at a nearby hotel and oustside wouldn’t have been ideal today. There wasn’t an awful lot to be done because the boys who played last night were just doing a little recovery session because of the game tomorrow night.”

The ex-Motherwell skipper said he was enjoying being part of Stephen Robinson’s team. “I’m loving it,” he said. “This is the first real opportunity I have had to get involved, and to come in and see the quality that’s there is good.

“Stephen (Robinson) is excellent. I’m not just talking about him because I’m involved, but his organisation and preparation, and the video analysis he gives to the boys is as good as I’ve seen in my full career.

“The players are taking on board what he says, and I’m learning lots of things about what happens off the pitch; dealing with players and speaking to them.”

Craigan, who won 54 caps for his country, said promising full-back McLaughlin has impressed him.

“Last night was the first time I have seen him play and he was a little bit disappointed that he couldn’t get forward as much as he wanted. But what I said to him was that he is actually learning more about his position.”

He added: “Brendan Rodgers had him out in pre-season in Boston so he’s definitely a very good talent, but, the more talented players we can get coming through, and the fact that he’s here with our under-19s, is good for the other boys to see as well. He’s one of the lads and he’s a nice, level-headed kid, and I think that’s good.”

Report by John Gillespie | Twitter: @Times_Sport