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From the Blanchflower brothers in the 1950s to today with Jonny and Corry Evans, Northern Ireland has a long tradition of siblings wearing the green jersey together.

However, none of these famous family duos of the past grew up with a prepared penalty shootout in the backyard.

Midfielder Shea Charles has already won 16 caps for Michael O’Neill’s team and this month his 18-year-old younger brother Pierce, a goalkeeper at Sheffield Wednesday, was added to the squad.

Since the couple plays such different positions, it was surely perfect practice for growing up, right?

“You say that, but when we were young he played in the field,” laughs 20-year-old Shea, whose Southampton team advanced to the Premier League via the play-offs this season.

“When we were younger, we were all in the garden, the two of us and our older brother. At some point he had to be the one who had to go into the nets.”

Those early days as an outfielder have obviously served the youngest Charles brother well.

Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill praised the all-round skills of the goalkeeper, who is completely familiar with the ball.

“Pierce is one of the goalkeepers that everyone is looking for in modern football,” he said.

“He distributes the ball superbly, is very composed when he has the ball at his feet and we know he is highly valued at Sheffield Wednesday.”

Like Jeff and Jim Whitley, who played a total of 23 international matches for Northern Ireland between 1997 and 2005, Shea and Pierce also came from Manchester City’s youth ranks.

The latter believes that the club’s requirement that goalkeepers be confident with the ball at their feet has helped him develop a well-rounded skill set.

“When I was younger and at City, they wanted you to be good with your feet and I guess that just carried over and reflected in my game today.”

Of the experience of working his way through the ranks at the Etihad Stadium, he adds: “It was very valuable.”

“For me, the chance to go to Sheffield Wednesday at that time was perfect. I think that was what I needed, a change of scenery, a change (of perspective) of how the game is played. I think it worked out perfectly.”

Pierce Charles on his debut at Sheffield WednesdayPierce Charles on his debut at Sheffield Wednesday

Pierce Charles was praised by Michael O’Neill for his skills on the ball (Getty Images)

Pierce made his debut for Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup fourth round replay against Coventry City in February. There are hopes that a Northern Ireland debut will follow soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday’s friendly against Andorra in Murcia, as O’Neill’s only doubtful player is fellow goalkeeper Conor Hazard.

Of his brother’s presence in the squad, Shea, who made his international debut in June 2022, said: “It was good.

“I hope I took him well under my wing, but all the boys welcomed him warmly.

“He’s only 18. It seems like the boys love him and he’s making great progress in training.”

For Pierce, who had already trained with the senior national team ahead of the 2022 Nations League games, it was “a dream” to be a full member of the squad alongside his brother.

“When I was first drafted, it was like a dream to have Shea on the same team,” he says.

“It was incredible to play football with the boys who welcomed us so warmly.

“It’s just exciting. It motivates me for the next step in my career.”

“The whole family will be very proud”

If this were to soon be accompanied by an international debut, it would mean even more to Pierce to take the step with his brother on the same team at his side.

“It’s a dream to play alongside someone as good as this guy,” he says.

“Hopefully this is the next step.”

During his time in the Northern Ireland squad, Shea has witnessed the longevity of the Evans brothers, who played together for the 50th time at international level on Saturday when Corry came on as a second-half substitute in the 5-1 defeat to Spain.

“It’s still a long way off, but it’s something to look forward to,” Shea adds.

“We played together when we were younger, of course, but I can’t wait for him to make his debut with me.

“The whole family will be very proud, especially my mother because she is from Northern Ireland. They would be very happy.”

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