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Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill: Support of mum and dad means so much to me

By Steven Beacom

Published 26/04/2016

That’s our boy: Michael O’Neill with his parents Pat and Des
That’s our boy: Michael O’Neill with his parents Pat and Des

It was the morning after Michael O'Neill had received another award for his historic achievements as Northern Ireland manager.

Sitting beside him at a breakfast table, in the Ramada Hotel in Belfast, were mum Pat and dad Des, who the previous evening had proudly watched their boy collect the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Coach of the Year prize.

Joining their company it was clear to see a strong, loving relationship existed between parents and son. Fun too. O'Neill believes growing up in a stable family environment along with his three sisters and brother, initially in Portadown and then Ballymena, helped make him the man he has become.

"The stability that my family has given me has been very important. I'm very fortunate to have had a stable family background," said O'Neill, whose brother Sean left home to go to University in America when he was 18 and enjoyed it so much he has been there ever since.

"We are a funny family in that we are all close but we don't have to see each other all the time.

"When we meet up we just get on straight away even if we haven't seen each other for months.

"We are very relaxed about that and don't put too much pressure on to constantly meet up."

O'Neill's father was an accomplished hurling player, and while Michael played Gaelic games at St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, he decided on football as his sport of choice.

"My parents always encouraged me to do the best I could at whatever I was doing," said the 46-year-old, who in the summer will take Northern Ireland to the European Championship finals for the first time in the nation's history.

"I was like that anyway, but to have their support and encouragement, be it academically or with all the sports that I did, meant a lot to me.

"Over the years my parents have been a great source of support and guidance to all the family and they have always been there for me."

Belfast Telegraph

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