THE Ireland Under-18 Schools side are highly unlikely to retain their Centenary Shield title after suffering late heartbreak in Belfast on St Patrick's Day.
Late second-half goals from Martin Murray and Cathair Friel gave Northern Ireland a first win over their southern counterparts since 1995.
Dave Archbold's side have been the most successful side in the five-team competition in recent years but now only have an outside chance of sharing the trophy. Wins over Scotland on April 1 and England on the 28th must be combined with the right results elsewhere if Ireland are to come away from the current campaign with any glory.
The visitors went into the clash at The Oval without injured key starters Paul Mannion, Colm Horgan and striker Garbhan Coughlan but still managed to shade the first period without being rewarded with a goal.
Hugh Douglas and Chris Lyons both forced top saves from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Ross Glendinning.
However, once Murray opened the score with a close-range finish on 71 minutes it was always an uphill battle for Ireland and Friel sealed the win in the 92th minute.
Next up is the trip to Dumfries, with the competition conclusion in Tallaght live on Sky Sports at the end of the month.
IRELAND: Murray (Pobailscoil Iosolde); Barker (Fingal CC), Cooney (Templeogue CC), R McLaughlin (Carndonagh), Matthews (Clonkeen College, Blackrock); Merritt (Loreto CS, Milford), Douglas (St Brendan's College, Bray), Chambers (St Fintan's), Kavanagh (Oatlands College), C McLaughlin (Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana); Lyons (Presentation, Bray). Subs: Timlin (Scoil Mhuire SS, Buncrana) for C McLaughlin (h/t), Lane (Presentation College, Athenry) for Kavanagh (61), Piggott (Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk) for Cooney (73), McNamee (Loreto CS, Milford) for Merritt (83).