Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill delighted MacPhee can stay in his NI role

By Conor McLaughlin

Michael O'Neill has welcomed the news that Austin MacPhee will remain on the Northern Ireland backroom staff despite taking up a coaching job with Hearts.

The 37-year-old from Kirkcaldy, who had been in contention to take up the Scottish Football Association's performance director role and hence quit his Irish FA post, was yesterday unveiled as assistant to rookie Tynecastle boss Ian Cathro.

Head-hunted by O'Neill prior to Northern Ireland's historic Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, MacPhee - who had previously enjoyed spells with Cowdenbeath and St Mirren - thanked the Scottish Football Association for their understanding as he and Cathro prepare to make their Jam Tarts bows in Saturday's Premiership showdown with Rangers at Ibrox.

"I can only thank the SFA for their patience with me, their exchanging of ideas, and whoever takes on the performance director role, they have a very exciting job," he said.

"I believe the decision to come here and work with Ian, Craig (Levein, director of football) and Ann (Budge, chairwoman) will be the right one for my career over time.

"There are things Ian will challenge me on and there are things I will challenge Ian on. Our strengths and weaknesses will hopefully compensate, and we can grow with the club to move Hearts forward."

Having feared the loss of his trusted assistant, Northern Ireland boss O'Neill was delighted to learn of MacPhee's decision to remain part of the international set-up in conjunction with his daily duties at the Edinburgh outfit.

"I am pleased that Austin has been appointed to the Hearts job and I wish him every success at the club," he explained.

"His services were much sought after and I know that he will relish the chance of making an impact in the SPL.

"Austin has been an important part of our international coaching team ever since he joined us in 2014. He works well alongside our assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl and brings great knowledge of the game. I am delighted that he is staying with Northern Ireland."

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