Northern Ireland U17s have secured a place in the elite qualifying round for U17 Euro 2023 in Hungary. Gerard Lyttle’s side played three games in the first round of qualifying in Malta last month, recording a win against the hosts, a loss to second-placed Scotland and a draw against group winners the Czech Republic.
Under competition rules, the top two teams in each group in the opening round automatically join leaders Netherlands and Spain in the elite spring 2023 round along with the four third-placed teams with the best records against the top two in the section their – and third – Northern Ireland, placed in this category, fell into that category.
The draw against the Czechs in Group 4 counts for an extra point under UEFA’s football development rules and has now confirmed their qualification for the elite qualifiers.
“It’s a wonderful achievement for everyone involved on and off the pitch. It really is a whole team effort,” said Lyttle, who in September also led Northern Ireland’s U19s to the elite stage of the Euro 2023 U19 qualifiers when they finished second in a mini-tournament that included Slovenia ( group winners), the Netherlands. and Moldova.
“They played with the pride and passion that we demand from all Northern Ireland teams. For both the U17 and U19 teams to reach the elite qualifying round at the same time, which I believe is a first for the Irish FA, is fantastic,” he added.
Lyttle paid tribute to the work of Jim Magilton, the JD Club NI program and the continued development of the JD Irish FA Academy under Andy Waterworth, who have helped pave the way for the achievements.
The draws for the elite qualifying rounds of both competitions will be made next month, with games scheduled to take place in March next year.