Belfast Telegraph

Punters back Michael O'Neill to be next Northern Ireland manager

By Steven Beacom

Man of the moment Michael O’Neill was today emerging as the favourite to become the new Northern Ireland manager — with the punters at least.

Shamrock Rovers boss O’Neill was 10/1 yesterday morning in the betting stakes to replace Nigel Worthington, but after an unexpected flood of big money bets within the space of a couple hours, bookmakers Paddy Power decided to suspend betting on the Ballymena man taking over the reins.

It’s the latest twist in a story that has already provided some shocks with ex-Liverpool and England strikers Kevin Keegan and Robbie Fowler said to be interested in the post.

When contacted today about suspending the betting Paddy Power said: “It's safe to say that we're running scared on this one, if money talks then it's screaming from the rooftops for Michael O'Neill.

“But these managerial markets are notoriously prone to twists and turns so it might not yet be a done deal!”

After Shamrock Rovers won their second successive League of Ireland title on Tuesday night, O’Neill intimated that he would be happy to stay at the Dublin club.

The day after that the Rovers chairman revealed that he was confident O’Neill would sign a new deal, but clearly some punters strongly believe he will soon be employed by the Irish FA.

The nine man IFA Board met at Windsor Avenue last night to establish how the process of finding Worthington’s successor will work.

Effectively the ball starts rolling today with IFA President Jim Shaw and Chief Executive Patrick Nelson the key figures in appointing the new man.

Jim Magilton, who acts as a consultant for Shamrock Rovers, and fellow former Northern Ireland skipper Iain Dowie have been the frontrunners for the vacancy ever since Martin O’Neill ruled himself out.

Both Magilton and Dowie are extremely interested in the job with an appointment not expected to be made until January.

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