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Michael O'Neill leaves Northern Ireland job because of Euro 2020 play-off postponement

The former Shamrock Rovers boss had been combining the role with his position at Stoke City.

O'Neill became Northern Ireland manager in December 2011.
O'Neill became Northern Ireland manager in December 2011.
Image: Liam McBurney

MICHAEL O’NEILL HAS stepped down as Northern Ireland manager after eight-and-a-half years in charge. 

The 50-year-old has brought unprecedented success during his spell in international management — leading Northern Ireland to their first-ever European Championships in 2016. 

O’Neill, who won two league titles and earned qualification to the Europa League group stages as Shamrock Rovers boss, was appointed manager of Stoke City back in November and agreed to balance club and country commitments until after the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.  

Northern Ireland were due to face Bosnia and Herzegovina in a play-off, with the winner of the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia awaiting in the final. 

However, the tournament has been rescheduled until next year and the play-offs now appear likely to take place in October, so O’Neill has decided to concentrate on Stoke. 

“After careful consideration and following discussions with the Irish FA I feel it is only fair that now is the right time for me to step aside,” he said, in a statement released by the Irish Football Association. 

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.

“It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to manage my country and I will treasure my time as manager of Northern Ireland forever.

“Throughout my time here, I have been fortunate to have worked with many great coaching, medical and support staff who have all contributed to our successes and shared in some great moments.

“As for my players, past and present, I would like to thank them all for an overwhelming level of commitment and professionalism that has helped to deliver so many unforgettable highs and great experiences for us all.

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“I would also like to thank everyone at the Irish FA who have made the job a wonderful experience and especially Patrick Nelson [CEO], Leslie Caul and Gerry Mallon [IFA chairmen], Jim Shaw and David Martin [IFA Presidents] who have always been a great source of support.

“Finally, to the fans, thank you. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to manage my country and I will treasure my time as manager of Northern Ireland forever. The support you have provided myself and the team over the years has been incredibly humbling.”

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Ben Blake

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