Belfast Telegraph

Baraclough's deal leaves Derry looking elsewhere while Glenavon will rebuff any Hamilton approach

 

Staying put: Ian Baraclough
Staying put: Ian Baraclough

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has warmly welcomed the news that Ian Baraclough has agreed a new two-year contract to stay on as Under-21 manager.

The former Motherwell and Sligo Rovers boss had been linked with the vacant manager's role at Derry City but the Irish Football Association moved swiftly to retain his services.

The new deal leaves Derry City chiefs looking elsewhere for a new manager and, while they have admired the progress Gary Hamilton has made at Glenavon, club chairman Adrian Teer insisted that any move for the former Glentoran striker will be firmly rejected.

"Gary is under contract until 2022 and any approach for his services will be firmly rebuffed," said Teer.

Baraclough almost guided the Northern Ireland Under-21 side to the 2019 Euros and this new deal reflects the Association's desire to keep the success story running.

O'Neill said: "Ian has proved to be a great addition to our international coaching team. The Under-21s have made excellent progress under his watch and I am delighted he is on board for another two years. He has been invaluable in helping us to develop future senior internationals."

Baraclough’s side finished second behind Spain in Qualifying Group 2 for the Euros and the clear highlight of their campaign was a memorable historic away win in Spain.

Appointed in May 2017, the 47-year old has helped nurture some of the best young players in Northern Ireland, and O’Neill can see that production line producing results with players such as Gavin Whyte, Shayne Lavery and goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Paul Smyth graduating to the senior side.

Northern Ireland amassed 20 points during their qualification campaign, which ended with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Slovakia at Windsor Park last month.

“This is the first time I have managed a team with a younger element and I have really enjoyed it,” said Baraclough.

“There is a challenge with a constant turnover of players, however we introduced quite a few younger players during our last campaign and that will be invaluable going forward.”

The Northern Ireland Under-17 side have progressed to the Euro qualifying elite stages and Baraclough insisted there are several exciting players emerging from the JD Club NI elite player development programme to the Under-17 and Under-19 teams managed by Stephen Frail.

“I believe we will have a competitive squad in the next campaign,” added Baraclough, who was assistant manager at Oldham Athletic before taking on the international job.

Eleven of Baraclough’s squad are eligible to play in the qualifiers for the 2021 Under-21 Euros.

Despite being linked with a move to the Brandwell to become Kenny Shiels’ successor, he was happy to stay on as Under-21 boss.

“I have loved it,” Baraclough said.“When I took over I knew it would be a challenge and I thought it would possibly be a slow burner.

“However, the players, staff and everybody involved have come together and it has just ignited.”

The former Queens Park Rangers defender, who led Sligo Rovers to the League of Ireland Premier Division title in his first season at the club in 2012, will be at Windsor Park today to welcome a joint bid from the Irish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland  to host the Uefa Under-21 Championship in 2023, the first time the two Associations have worked together on a joint bid.

With the announcement coming ahead of the friendly between the Republic and Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on November 15, it’s a move that signals a desire for a better working relationship between the Irish FA and FAI, particularly the recruitment of young players.

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