O'Neill aims for Euro 2024 in second stint with Northern Ireland




 

Michael O'Neill is determined to lead Northern Ireland to anther major tournament after returning for a second stint as manager two-and-a-half years after joining Stoke.

O'Neill, 53, has signed a five-and-a-half-year contract which will run until Euro 2028.

His previous spell in charge saw O'Neill lead Northern Ireland to Euro 2016, ending a 30-year wait for an appearance at a major finals, with the team going all the way to the last 16.

O'Neill's international record led to an approach by English second-tier club Stoke, whom he joined in 2019 while combining that job with his international duties.

But when the Covid pandemic led to the postponement of Northern Ireland fixtures, O'Neill stepped down to concentrate solely on Stoke, with Ian Baraclough promoted from the Under-21s in April 2020.

O'Neill helped Stoke avoid relegation to third-tier League One but, unable to make the club promotion contenders, was sacked in August.

And with Baraclough dismissed in October after losing 14 of his 28 games in charge, a way became clear for O'Neill to return to the Northern Ireland role.

O'Neill said he was untroubled by suggestions his second spell in international football would not be as successful as his first.

"There's no concerns," O'Neill said. "If the worst comes to pass and it doesn't go well, I'll have to live with that. I'm just approaching it with the same professionalism as I did last time."

As for suggestions Northern Ireland had received a good draw for Euro 2024, given they are in the same qualifying group as Denmark, Finland, Kazakhstan, San Marino and Slovenia, a cautious O'Neill said: "All the teams will see it as an opportunity, which will make it extremely competitive.

"There is an opportunity there if we have good home performances and results and be difficult to beat away from home. That approach will be essential."

jdg/nr

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