Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill is sure Northern Ireland can return to big stage

 

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill backed Northern Ireland to become an even more formidable force after confirming his new six-year package with the Irish FA until 2024.

The bumper deal, worth £700,000-a-year, is the longest and most lucrative contract in the Irish FA's history and allays fears the squad could be seriously harmed by the retirement of several senior players.

O'Neill admitted he thought his reign could be coming to an end after the World Cup play-off loss to Switzerland but now he's excited about the future and boldly predicting his squad will get even stronger.

"Everyone has been saying that the squad will get weaker," said the 48-year-old. "I think in 12 months' time the squad will be stronger.

"We want to bulk the squad up with significant players who are playing for their club.

"We will have nine games before the Euro 2020 qualifiers kick off and we want to be in as strong a position as we can for that, and I genuinely feel we will be.

"No manager comes with a guarantee of qualification and we don't even know the draw yet for the Euros - that's a factor - but having gone through what we did in the last two campaigns of course I believe we can qualify for another major tournament."

Belfast Telegraph

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