Northern Ireland: Shea and Pierce Charles dreaming of sharing international stage under Michael O'Neill (2024)

Northern Ireland: Shea and Pierce Charles dreaming of sharing international stage under Michael O'Neill (1)Image source, Presseye

Jonathan Bradley

BBC Sport NI Journalist in Murcia

  • Published

From the Blanchflower brothers in the 1950s, to the modern day with Jonny and Corry Evans, Northern Ireland has a fine history when it comes to siblings donning the green jersey together.

None of those storied familial duos of the past, however, grew up with a ready-made penalty shootout in their back garden.

Midfielder Shea Charles already has 16 caps to his name for Michael O'Neill's side and this month has been joined in the squad by his 18-year-old younger brother Pierce, a goalkeeper with Sheffield Wednesday.

Surely with the pair playing such different positions, it was perfect practice growing up?

"You say that, but when we were young he played outfield," laughs Shea, 20, whose Southampton side were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs this season.

"When we were younger, we'd all be out in the garden, us two and our older brother. Eventually he had to be the one to go in nets."

Those early days playing outfield have evidently served the youngest Charles brother well.

A goalkeeper wholly comfortable on the ball, Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has praised his all-round ability.

"Pierce is one of those goalkeepers that everyone is looking for in the modern game," he said.

"He's got great distribution, real composure with the ball at his feet and we know at Sheffield Wednesday they really regard him highly."

Like Jeff and Jim Whitley, who won a combined 23 Northern Ireland caps between 1997 and 2005, Shea and Pierce were both products of the Manchester City youth system.

The latter feels the club's insistence that keepers are comfortable with the ball at their feet has helped him develop a rounded skillset.

"With being at City when I was younger, they wanted you to be good with your feet and I suppose that just carried on and broughtit on in my game today."

On the experience of coming through the ranks at Etihad Stadium, he adds: "It was very valuable.

"The change for me to go to Sheffield Wednesday at the time was perfect. I think that's what I needed, a change of scenery, a change [in perspective of] how the game is played. I think it's worked out perfectly."

Image source, Getty Images

Pierce made his Sheffield Wednesday debut against Coventry City in an FA Cup fourth round replay during February. There is hope a Northern Ireland bow will soon follow suit, perhaps even as soon as Tuesday's friendly against Andorra in Murcia with fellow keeper Conor Hazard providing O'Neill his only injury doubt.

On having his brother in the squad, Shea, who made his own international debut in June 2022, says: "It's been good.

"I hope I've taken him under my wing nicely, but all the lads have welcomed him in.

"He's only 18. It seems like the lads love him and he's been going great in training."

For Pierce, who had previously trained with the senior squad prior to Nations League games in 2022, it has been "a dream" to be fully included in the panel with his brother.

"When I first got the call-up it was like a dream with Shea in the same squad," he says.

"To play football around the lads, who have welcomed we well, it's been unbelievable.

"It's just exciting. It just keeps me motivated for the next step in my career."

'The whole family will be very proud'

Should that come with an international debut soon, it would mean even more for Pierce to make the step with his brother in the same team alongside him.

"That's the dream, to play alongside someone as good as this man here," he says.

"Hopefully it's the next step to come."

During Shea's time in the Northern Ireland squad he has seen the longevity enjoyed by the Evans brothers, who played together for a 50th time at international level in the 5-1 defeat by Spain on Saturday when Corry was introduced as a substitute in the second half.

"It's a long way away but it's something to look ahead to," adds Shea.

"We obviously played together when we were younger but I can't wait until he makes his debut with me.

"The whole family will be very proud, especially my mum cause she's from Northern Ireland. They'd be very happy."

Related Topics

  • Northern Ireland Men's Football Team
  • Northern Ireland Sport
  • Football
Northern Ireland: Shea and Pierce Charles dreaming of sharing international stage under Michael O'Neill (2024)
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