Belfast Telegraph

Michael O’Neill closes in on Northern Ireland hot-seat

By Stuart McKinley

Michael O’Neill celebrated Shamrock Rovers’ back-to-back League of Ireland title success with a 4-0 win over Galway United last night, in what could be his last league match as manager of the club.

Instead of prolonging his glory filled reign with the Tallaght outfit — which has also seen him take Rovers into the group stages of the Europa League, the first Irish team to do so — O’Neill appears to be in-line to be installed as the new manager of Northern Ireland after he moved to the top of bookmakers’ lists to succeed Nigel Worthington.

The 42-year-old has gone from being regarded as a decent outside bet to be named as the international boss, to becoming the favourite for the job before Paddy Power moved to suspend betting on him being handed the post.

The odds on O’Neill being appointed by the Irish FA tumbled from 11-1 on Thursday morning to 1-6 before he was taken off the market.

Other bookmakers then followed suit yesterday by placing him as the odds-on favourite.

Sources in Dublin, where substantial bets were placed on O’Neill before he was withdrawn from the betting, have suggested that his appointment as Northern Ireland manager is ‘95 per cent over the line.’

And if that is the case then an official announcement could take place before Shamrock Rovers face PAOK Salonika in a Europa League group game next Thursday.

With their league campaign now completed Rovers meet Salonika and then face a trip to Russian side Rubin Kazan before their season concludes with a glamour tie at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

After that O’Neill’s next game as a manager could be Northern Ireland’s February friendly against Norway.

The Rovers board remain confident that O’Neill will sign a contract to stay at the club and there are hopes that the deal will be concluded shortly.

With O’Neill now appearing to be a man in demand, there is, however, the possibility that Dundee United could swoop for him if they decide to axe manager Peter Houston.

Meanwhile another former Northern Ireland midfielder may be on his way into a managerial post in Scotland too.

Steve Lomas has emerged as a strong candidate to become the new boss of Scottish Premier League club St Johnstone.

It is understood that the ex-Manchester City and West Ham player is to be interviewed by the club.

If successful it would Lomas’ breakthrough into professional management. His previous experience came with St Neots Town in the United Counties League before a spell as West Ham’s reserve team boss last season.

Current Northern Ireland squad member Alan Mannus is on the playing staff at St Johnstone.

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