Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill today received an honorary degree from Ulster University for his outstanding contribution to sport.
He was joined at a summer graduation ceremony at UU’s Coleraine campus by Republic of Ireland manager and former Northern Ireland captain Martin O’Neill, who also received an honorary degree for his outstanding contribution to sport.
Michael O’Neill told the BBC after the ceremony that Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 adventure had had a positive impact on the country and noted sport in general had been a positive thing here.
He said he felt he was picking up the degree on behalf of the Irish Football Association “in recognition of what they have done to improve things in Northern Ireland”.
The two football managers were among 13 “inspirational individuals” working across sport, the arts, the economy, engineering, peacebuilding and the community who were honoured by the university for making an exceptional contribution to their field.
UU Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said: “Each of these recipients has made an indelible mark in their field, advancing knowledge, building community, achieving excellence and, above all, acting as inspirational role models for us all.
“They display leadership, progressive thinking, compassion, bravery, integrity and tenacity alongside superlative skills and talent – characteristics that we aim to instil in all our students.”
Michael O’Neill was appointed Northern Ireland manager in December 2011.
Last year he guided Northern Ireland to the European Championship finals for the first time in their history after they topped their qualifying group with a 21-point haul.
The team subsequently reached the Round of 16 at Euro 2016 in France, exiting the tournament after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Wales. In the group games they lost 1-0 to Poland and Germany respectively but earned an historic 2-0 win against Ukraine.
Northern Ireland have started their qualifying campaign for World Cup 2018 strongly. They currently lie second in Qualifying Group C with 13 points after four wins, a draw and one defeat in their opening six games.
At the end of 2015 Michael won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Coach Award and the RTE Sports Manager of the Year Award. At the start of this year he was appointed an MBE by the Queen for services to football and to the community in Northern Ireland.