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O'Neill 'disappointed' for McCarthy but says Kenny will adapt to step-up

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Stoke City and former Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Stoke City and former Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Stoke City and former Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Michael O'Neill has expressed sympathy with Mick McCarthy for losing his job as Ireland manager and creating a "great opportunity" for his successor Stephen Kenny.

Northern Ireland and Stoke boss O'Neill is aware of the challenge facing Kenny as he went into the international game on the back of managing in the League of Ireland. He feels that a stint with the U-21 side will have taught Kenny a lot.

O'Neill and Kenny could come face to face in a European Championships play-off final if both teams get through their respective semi-finals - although uncertainty now hangs over the Northern Ireland manager's position due to his commitments at Stoke and the scheduling implications of the Covid-19 crisis.

He has sympathy for McCarthy now that he's out of work completely.

"I am disappointed for Mick because he is a good guy and he had a chance to go to into the play-offs to get to another major tournament. It was a difficult situation but they (the FAI) obviously felt the way they had done the succession plan they had to make that decision," said O'Neill.

"Stephen was manager of Derry when I was manager of Shamrock Rovers and when I left Shamrock Rovers he replaced me there.

"The job he did at Dundalk was fantastic and he also did well with the Republic of Ireland U-21s when you consider their results.

"They are in a good place and he has shown he is able to adapt to international football. Managing senior players is a different scenario from U-21s who are still in the infancy of their careers but it is a great opportunity for him."

O'Neill was set to double-job with Stoke through to the initial March play-off date. The delay has raised doubts about that arrangement being extended into the autumn.

Irish Independent