‘Honoured’ O’Neill out to restore pride

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MICHAEL O’Neill intends to “restore a sense of belief and pride” in the Northern Ireland national side after being appointed on a two-year contract by the Irish Football Association.

The former Shamrock Rovers manager has been chosen ahead of Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie to replace former Sheffield Wednesday great Nigel Worthington at Windsor Avenue and will begin work on February 1.

He inherits a side who failed to live up to modest expectations in their last campaign - which saw them finish fifth in their Euro 2012 qualifying group, ahead of only the Faroe Islands - and must also confront pressing issues of player availability and eligibility which caused problems for Worthington.

In the last couple of years Worthington was forced to deal with frequent squad withdrawals and injury absences, while the issue of Northern Ireland-born players pledging their footballing allegiance to the Republic of Ireland became an increasingly thorny problem for the IFA - who have lost a handful of highly-rated youngsters to the Football Association of Ireland. But, judging by the 42-year-old’s opening statement as national boss, he has an appetite for the task.

“I am honoured to be chosen to manage my country,” said O’Neill. “I am a proud Northern Irishman who was fortunate enough to win 33 senior caps and it was always an ambition to manage my country. To be entrusted with the role early in my managerial career is quite humbling but I am confident that we can make progress.”