O'Neill follows north star
Former Rovers boss set for Northern Ireland job
Published 24/12/2011 | 05:00
MICHAEL O'NEILL is on course to become the new manager of Northern Ireland as Shamrock Rovers prepare to name Stephen Kenny as his replacement.
O'Neill is the IFA's preferred candidate after they interviewed him in Belfast on Monday. His Hoops assistant Jim Magilton and another former international colleague Iain Dowie were also given a chance to impress the hierarchy a week earlier.
However, O'Neill is the man they want after an excellent three years in the League of Ireland that was capped by back-to-back title wins and qualification for the Europa League.
The interview panel are expected to present their verdict to the association's board early next week.
He is set to collect less than the £400,000 a year salary that previous incumbent Nigel Worthington was paid.
O'Neill was capped 33 times for the North during his playing career. His goal will be a successful World Cup 2014 qualification campaign, where they are in a tough group that features Portugal, Russia and Israel.
He'll take over a team who have lost their last four games and finished the Euro 2012 qualifying group in a dismal fifth place, only ahead of the Faroe Islands.
O'Neill will face a number of problems which were discussed during his successful IFA interview, such as the commitment of some of their bigger names, coping with the recent international retirements of stalwart defenders Aaron Hughes and Stephen Craigan, the lack of goals that was never a worry when David Healy was firing on all cylinders and the growing list of players defecting to the Republic of Ireland.
He parted company with Rovers last week after contract negotiations broke down.
The process of ushering in Kenny as the new boss of the League of Ireland champions has taken a little longer than anticipated.
Derry have fought tooth and nail to keep the Dubliner, who has a strong attachment with the club and area.
They offered to extend his deal and make concessions with respect to next year's budget.
Despite that, Rovers sources remain confident they have their man and were last night hoping to make an early announcement.
The Tallaght club has already tied down nine members of O'Neill's squad for a three-in-a-row tilt. Others are waiting for clarity on the new manager before putting pen to paper.