Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill signs new four-year contract
Published 16/03/2016 | 11:36
Michael O'Neill is hoping to create more history for Northern Ireland after signing a new contract to remain as manager until 2020.
O'Neill has put pen to paper on a four-year deal as reward for guiding the country to this summer's European Championship - Northern Ireland's first appearance at a major tournament since qualifying for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Northern Ireland will continue their preparations for the finals in France, where they are in a group with Poland, Ukraine and world champions Germany, with friendlies against Wales and Slovenia later this month.
Before the squad announcement for those matches, O'Neill told www.irishfa.com: "After the qualification and euphoria of that it was time to sit down and discuss what's next.
"Discussions were always positive between myself and the association, I just felt that it was the right thing to give stability to the situation going into the finals and this is the first phase of the team continuing to develop.
''I am extremely proud to be manager of Northern Ireland and I have thoroughly enjoyed the role over the past four years.
"I am therefore pleased to have signed this new long-term contract with the stability that it brings to me, the staff and the players. We are all now looking forward to Euro 2016 and the chance to create more history this summer.''
Peterborough defender Michael Smith and QPR forward Conor Washington have been called into the 24-man squad for the first time for training ahead of the games against Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on March 24 and at home to Slovenia four days later.
Northern Ireland created history by becoming the first fifth seeds to win a European Championship qualifying group, finishing above the likes of Romania, Hungary, Finland and Greece in Group F.
It will be the country's first appearance in a major competition for 30 years and Irish Football Association president Jim Shaw said O'Neill has made dreams come true for a generation of Irish supporters.
''Michael O'Neill has been absolutely magnificent for football in Northern Ireland. Most people could only dare to dream that Northern Ireland would play in a major championship again but Michael made those dreams a reality,'' Shaw said.
"He is a wonderful ambassador for Northern Ireland and I am absolutely delighted that he has signed this new four-year contract with the Irish FA."
O'Neill, 46, won 31 caps for Northern Ireland as a player and has been manager since February 2012 having previously enjoyed success at club level with Shamrock Rovers, Brechin City and Cowdenbeath.
Northern Ireland squad for games against Wales and Slovenia: Carroll, McGovern, Mannus; Hughes, McAuley, Evans, Cathcart, Hodson, McLaughlin, D Lafferty, McCullough, McNair, Smith; Davis, McGinn, Norwood, Ferguson, Dallas; K Lafferty, Ward, Magennis, McKay, Boyce, Washington.