NI Set To Host UEFA Championship

Northern Ireland is gearing up to host the 2020 UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals next year.

In a first for the region, the eight-team tournament will be played in Belfast, Ballymena, Lurgan and Portadown from 19 July to 01 August.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane joined the Irish Football Association President, David Martin at the launch event yesterday. The Sinn Fein Mayor said it was a great honour for the association to host Europe's largest youth football tournament featuring national teams.

Rising stars of European football are set to play in the 16 matches over 14 days. There will be 12 group matches, two semi-finals and a final, with scope for a play-off following the group stages if required.

Previously an under-18 competition, the tournament has seen many famous players cut their teeth, including former England stars Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Sol Campbell, Spain's Fernando Torres, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and David Silva.

The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast will host the semi-finals, final and two of Northern Ireland's three group matches, while the Ballymena Showgrounds, Lurgan's Mourneview Park and Shamrock Park in Portadown will also host various stages of the tournament.
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Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: "Our reputation for hosting world class sporting events continues to go from strength to strength. I have no doubt that the players, coaches and their families will be given a warm welcome during their time here. I want to wish all the teams the best of luck and hope to catch some of the action myself when the tournament kicks off."

Mr Martin added: "Two years ago we successfully hosted the Women's U19 Euros and I am certain next year's event will also be top class. And I believe this tournament will once again showcase Northern Ireland as an excellent sporting venue."

Aaron Hughes, who recently retired from senior international duty with Northern Ireland after winning 112 caps, will act as the ambassador for the 2020 tournament. The former Fulham, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Hearts defender said: "I think it's fantastic for Northern Ireland to host a tournament of this stature and I was delighted to accept the role of ambassador for the event.

"I am sure football fans here will relish the opportunity to see some of the best young footballers from across Europe in action."

Tournament Director Peter Gilpin said: "We are confident we can deliver a successful U19 Euros that will have long-lasting benefits for football right across Northern Ireland."

Also attending the launch were Chelsea defender Sam McClelland and Ballinamallard United defender Dean Corrigan, who are both hoping to be in Stephen Frail's Northern Ireland squad for next year's U19 Euros. Northern Ireland qualify for the finals as hosts.


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