Football

Michael O'Neill Permanently Leaves Role As Northern Ireland Manager

Michael O'Neill Permanently Leaves Role As Northern Ireland Manager

Michael O'Neill has permanently left his post as Northern Ireland manager due to the rescheduling of the Euro 2020 playoffs.

O'Neill was already double-jobbing, having taken over at Championship club Stoke City in November. The former Shamrock Rovers boss was set to depart the Northern Ireland role fully after the European Championships. However, due to the postponement of the tournament owing to the Covid-19, the former Northern Ireland international decided to call a halt to his 8-year stint in charge at Windsor Park.

On the move, O'Neill remarked that it was "the right time to step aside" in light of the current circumstances.

"I would have loved the opportunity to manage Northern Ireland in the UEFA 2020 play-off game versus Bosnia and Herzegovina and the chance to qualify for another major tournament, but the current situation means that this is no longer possible.

“It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021, but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight-year tenure."

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IFA CEO Patrick Nelson thanked O'Neill for his tenure, which saw Northern Ireland reach a major tournament for the first time since 1986, as well as showing appreciation to Stoke City for their understanding regarding their agreement. Nelson added that due to the clearer picture expressed by UEFA regarding scheduling, it was the right move to make.

"It is the right time to move forward in a new direction to give Michael’s successor the best possible chance of planning for and competing in the Nations League, as well as gearing up for those crucial play-off games that will hopefully take us back to Euros next summer."

Nelson added that O'Neill's successor will be in place for September.

It means both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will have new managers for their playoffs against Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively. When news emerged about Stephen Kenny replacing Mick McCarthy with immediate effect, O'Neill expressed that he was "disappointed" that McCarthy was without a job, before adding that it was a "great opportunity" for Kenny, the man who replaced him at Shamrock Rovers.

O'Neill finishes his tenure as Northern Ireland manager with a win percentage of 36%, including the historic 2-0 against Ukraine at Euro 2016, which saw the Green and White Army go through to the Round of 16.

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Sean Meehan

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