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Scots paving the way to make their move for Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

By Laure James

Irish FA chiefs are staying quiet amid fears Michael O'Neill could follow his top coach Austin MacPhee into a dream ticket appointment by Scotland.

Highly regarded Northern Ireland assistant MacPhee, a Scot, was head-hunted by O'Neill in 2014 and is now a front-runner to become Scottish FA performance director.

The speculation has stoked existing rumours Northern Ireland boss O'Neill (right) could succeed Gordon Strachan - and the IFA are remaining tight-lipped while tongues wag.

Scotland sit only above Malta in Group F, and SFA chiefs have been impressed by O'Neill's record with Northern Ireland.

Officially, the SFA have backed Strachan as the man to turn their World Cup campaign around. A source close to the association, however, told the Belfast Telegraph that O'Neill will be on a hit-list if they choose not to renew the former Celtic manager's contract, and could be targeted as early as March.

If Scotland fail to pick up a win at home to Slovenia in their next match, Strachan's bosses could opt to make a change before hosting England on June 10.

Full story: Austin MacPhee could hold the key to Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland future

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