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Wednesday 07 Dec 2022
O’Neill returns as Northern Ireland manager

Michael O’Neill has been appointed as manager of Northern Ireland for a second spell.

O’Neill (53) has signed a five-and-a-half year contract with the Irish Football Association and will work closely with the Irish FA’s Technical Director, Aaron Hughes.

Michael said today: “I am delighted to be the Northern Ireland senior men’s team manager. I am excited to see what can be achieved with this group of players and can’t wait to be in front of the Green and White Army at the National Stadium once again."

Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood applauded O’Neill’s return to the hotseat.

He said: “I believe Michael is the right man for the job. He comes to the role this time with the benefit of even more experience at both international and domestic level, which will have only added to his skill set and experience.

“With a positive Euro 2024 qualifying draw I have no doubt the Green and White Army will get behind him and his team.”

Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: “Michael is back and here for the long run. We are focused immediately on the upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying campaign which starts in March 2023, but beyond that there is so much to look forward to, including the UEFA Euro 2028 tournament where we will hopefully be co-hosting as part of a successful UK and Ireland bid.”

And Irish FA Chairman Stephen Martin added: “I am very pleased with the appointment and extend a warm welcome back to Michael. With a busy and important 2023 on the horizon, consisting of 10 European qualifying matches, the board and I look forward to working with him, and supporting, his staff and players. These are exciting times.”

In his first spell as Northern Ireland boss O’Neill was in charge of the national team for just over nine years.

His tenure began in December 2011 after switching from club management with Shamrock Rovers in Dublin.

He became manager at EFL Championship club Stoke City in November 2019, however he did not step away from his role with Northern Ireland until April 2020 when Covid led to the postponement of Euro 2020 play-offs.

Michael left Stoke back in August. During his time there he successfully managed to save the club from relegation in his first season; they were bottom of the table with just eight points from 15 games when he took over.

Subsequently he steered Stoke to successive mid-table finishes in the Championship all while restructuring the club, halving the playing budget and promoting youth and developing assets into the team.

His first campaign in charge of the national team was the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Northern Ireland finished fifth in a six-team group, picking up seven points from 10 games after recording a win, four draws and five defeats.

Results may not have gone his way but the Irish FA realised he was making progress with the team and in November 2013 he agreed a new two-year deal with the association to remain as manager.

His second campaign with the international team was the qualifiers for the European Championship finals in France in the summer of 2016.

The Euro 2016 qualifiers kicked off in September 2014 and over the next 13 months Michael guided the team to a series of superb results as they qualified for the finals as group winners after winning six, drawing three and losing just once. And they created history by becoming the first fifth seeds to win a European Championship qualifying group.

The team - the first from Northern Ireland to compete at a European Championship finals - reached the Round of 16 at Euro 2016, exiting the tournament after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Wales. In the group stages they lost narrowly to Poland and Germany, however they registered an historic 2-0 victory over Ukraine.

Under Michael’s guidance Northern Ireland finished second in their qualifying group for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 behind then world champions Germany.

Their second place finish in Qualifying Group C meant they reached the European play-offs for a place at World Cup 2018. They faced Switzerland home and away in November 2017 and lost out 1-0 on aggregate.

His final campaign in charge during his first spell – for qualification to Euro 2020 – saw Northern Ireland earn a play-off place for Euro 2020 after they finished third in their qualifying group behind Germany and Netherlands.

Despite taking up the manager’s job at Stoke City towards the end of 2019 he agreed to stay on as Northern Ireland boss on a part-time basis to guide the team through the play-offs, however their postponement due to Covid led to him vacating the post in April 2020 to concentrate fully on his role with Stoke.