Tuesday 12 December 2017

O'Neill vows to halt North's talent drain to FAI

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MICHAEL O'NEILL was confirmed as the new Northern Ireland manager yesterday and immediately declared his intention to halt the defection of promising young players into the hands of the FAI.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss put pen to paper on a two-year deal that will be worth around £250,000 a year -- considerably less than his predecessor, Nigel Worthington, earned.

O'Neill, a Catholic, is determined to stop the North's player drain. A number of players born in the North have switched allegiance in recent years and the Irish Football Association (IFA) have no legal way of stopping them after losing a case they brought to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The 42-year-old believes that, if their results on the field improve, it will help Northen Ireland to keep their most promising talent.

"We have a strong football tradition but one that needs to be refreshed with some more contemporary success," said O'Neill.

"That is my primary objective -- to restore a sense of belief and pride in what it means to represent Northern Ireland, so that our players will want to play only for their country. That is how it should be. I am a proud Northern Irishman who was fortunate enough to win 33 senior caps and it was always an ambition to manage my country.

"To be entrusted with the role early in my managerial career is quite humbling, but I am confident that we can make progress."

O'Neill saw off competition from former international team-mates Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie to land the role.

Magilton had served as assistant to O'Neill in the final six months of his hugely successful tenure at Shamrock Rovers, during which he delivered the League of Ireland title twice and qualification for the group stages of the Europa League.

In some ways, it is ironic that the Belfast authorities turned to Shamrock Rovers for their new boss after Worthington was criticised for bizarrely ignoring the claims of Hoops players during his tenure.

Goalkeeper Alan Mannus, who subsequently left Rovers for St Johnstone, believed that Worthington dismissed League of Ireland players from his thoughts.

Eyebrows were raised when highly rated winger Derry winger James McClean wasn't selected for a fringe squad for last summer's Carling Nations Cup.

McClean, who has since joined Sunderland, refused a follow-up call and has since declared for the Republic.

O'Neill is likely to take a more positive view of players plying their trade on this island and is a huge admirer of Derry City left-back Daniel Lafferty, who has been on trial in England this winter.

He will be assessing all of his available options in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, with O'Neill due to make his competitive debut in the Northern Ireland dug-out against Russia in Moscow next September. First up is a friendly with Norway on February 29.

Irish Independent

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