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Lowe blow leaves Irish title dreams in balance

CENTENARY Shield holders Northern Ireland broke home hearts on St Patrick's Day in Sligo with an injury-time winner against the Ireland U18 Schools international side, writes Gavin Earley.

Despite taking a first-half lead against their northern rivals, Ollie Horgan's side were eventually left with nothing to show from their effort after Kris Lowe struck in the 91st minute.

The result now leaves Ireland chasing victory in England tomorrow week (Friday March 28) at Bristol City's Ashton Gate stadium (7.0pm).

Horgan will be hoping his side come away with a result – draw or win – that keeps them in the title hunt going into next month's final game at home to Scoltand.

When the Scots arrive at Tallaght Stadium on April 24 the schoolboys in green will be looking to secure a title-clinching victory.

That job could have been a lot easier had an excellent first-half display in Sligo on Monday yielded more luck for the home side.

Captain Ryan Manning of Yeats College in Galway smashed a free-kick off the post in only the third minute, before opening the scoring on 39 minutes with a header from Cian Kavanagh's set-piece.

That opening goal came after an offside flag ruled out a Northern Ireland goal scored by Corey McMullen on 13 minutes, but the visitors could not complain about luck overall as Manning again struck the frame of the goal on 44 minutes with another free kick.

Despite goalkeeper Jack Brady's save from Lowe on 50 minutes, the rebound was finished for the Northern Ireland equaliser by Curtis Dempster.

Kealan Mulcahy in the visiting goal was by far the busier 'keeper in the closing stages, but it was Lowe's late strike that sealed the points for his side.

IRELAND SCHOOLS: Jack Brady (St Anne's CC, Killaloe), Aidan McCauley (Moville CC), Dylan Kavanagh (Salesian Coll, Celbridge), Maxime Kouogum (Col Chairáin, Leixlip), Christopher Flanagan (St Eunan's Coll, Letterkenny), Val Feeney (Col Phobáil, Ros Cré), Craig Donnellan (Col Chríost Rí, Cork), Cian Kavanagh (Patrician Coll, Finglas), Jamie McGrath (Athboy CS), Jack Bayly (Salesian Coll, Celbridge), Ryan Manning (capt) (Yeats College, Galway). Subs: George Kelly (Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana) for McGrath 60 mins; Darragh Black (Loreto CS, Milford) for Bayly 66; Michael Brown (Maynooth PP) for C Kavanagh 81.