Craig Cathcart backing next generation to push forward

Craig Cathcart has backed Daniel Ballard and Ciaron Brown to have big futures with Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 6th June 2021, 6:00 am

With Jonny Evans absent through injury Cathcart lined up alongside Cardiff’s Brown, 23, twice over the past week, while the 21-year-old Ballard came into the Northern Ireland side for Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Ukraine after helping Blackpool earn promotion to League One at the weekend.

And though Northern Ireland could not follow up Sunday’s 3-0 win over Malta as they were edged out in Dnipro, Cathcart was impressed by his younger team-mates.

“They are two young players who have come into the team and every time they play they do really well,” the Watford defender said. “They’re going to have a great future. They’re playing club football week in, week out now and that can only develop them further.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart. Pic by Pacemaker.

“They’re going to be big players for Northern Ireland.”

Brown would have Northern Ireland’s best chance of the game in Ukraine, with his header being clawed to safety by Heorhiy Bushchan.

“I was right behind it to be fair and he got a good contact on it from a great delivery and if we had gone in at the break 1-1 we would have been really happy,” Cathcart added. “It was a really tough game. Ukraine are a really good side and you could see why they’re going to the Euros.

“They caused a lot of problems, especially in the first half and we found it hard to deal with their movement.

“But we came in at half-time 1-0 down, had a good chat and changed a few things and we were unlucky not to get a goal early in the second half.

“It’s never easy in these camps with lads coming in at different stages of their fitness, but it has been good.

“We got a good win against Malta, played a really good Ukraine team and while it was a difficult match, we can learn from the experience.”

After 17-year-old Conor Bradley made his debut in the Malta win, Thursday was the turn of Chelsea teenager Sam McClelland.

“It was a dream come true for me,” said McClelland, who has yet to play for his club at senior level.


A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.

But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Thank you