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Exclusive: IFA and FAI to make all-Ireland bid to host Euro U21 Championship



Northern Ireland U21s manager Ian Baraclough and Republic of Ireland U21s boss Noel King.

Northern Ireland U21s manager Ian Baraclough and Republic of Ireland U21s boss Noel King.

Northern Ireland U21s manager Ian Baraclough and Republic of Ireland U21s boss Noel King.

The Irish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland will make history tomorrow when they unveil plans to submit a joint bid to host the Uefa Under-21 Championship in 2023.

The Under-21 Championship is viewed as the second biggest football tournament in the continent after the European Championships and this will be the first time the two associations have worked together on a joint bid.

With the announcement coming ahead of the friendly international between the Republic and Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on November 15, this move signals a desire for a better working relationship between the Irish FA and FAI.

Some Northern Ireland fans have questioned whether that friendly should proceed in light of the Fifa eligibility rule which allows players in the north to switch allegiance to the Republic if they haven't played a competitive fixture for the senior team.

And Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has called for better communication between the associations with regard to the recruitment of players. However, this move by the two football bodies raises the prospect of closer working relations.

The formal bid will be submitted to Uefa next year, with a decision expected in early 2020, and a successful outcome would be a huge coup for both associations.

A triumphant bid would mean both teams will automatically qualify for the tournament as hosts.

Football fans across Ireland would then be offered a close glimpse of the cream of Europe's young talent, hoping to follow in the footsteps of players such as Luis Figo, Petr Cech, Iker Casillas and Andrea Pirlo.

The Northern Ireland Under-21 team, managed by Ian Baraclough, came very close to qualifying for the 2019 Euro finals.

Northern Ireland finished second in their qualifying group but just failed to seal a play-off spot.

The highlight of their successful campaign was a stunning 2-1 win in Spain, and players have graduated into the senior team including goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Paul Smyth, Gavin Whyte and Shayne Lavery.

The Irish FA are desperate for their Under-21 success story to continue and will reward the former Scunthorpe, Sligo Rovers and Motherwell manager with an improved deal.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21s finished third in their European Championships qualifying group, which also contained Germany.

The Irish underage side won four of their games, drew two and lost four, finishing on 14 points behind the Germans and Norway, while their points total was matched by Israel in fourth.

With Derry City star Ronan Hale among their ranks, the Republic picked up wins over Kosovo and Israel, while they did the double over Azerbaijan as well.

However, a costly draw in Kosovo derailed their hopes, while a heavy 6-0 defeat at home to Germany and a 3-1 loss in Israel towards the latter end of their campaign cost them any chance of progressing.

Coached by Noel King, the Under-21s have never qualified for the European Championships in their history, but that would change if this bid was to come to fruition.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Under-17s have progressed to the Euro qualifying elite stages.

Goals from Ben Wylie (2), Dale Taylor (2) and Darragh Burns (2) demolished San Marino 6-0 to secure a second place finish in the group.

And Northern Ireland Under-21 international striker David Parkhouse has joined Boston United on an initial month’s youth loan from Sheffield United.

Belfast Telegraph