O'Neill excited by Northern Ireland future

09 February 2018 12:21:46 EST

Michael O'Neill says he is looking forward to building on the success he has enjoyed as Northern Ireland coach after signing a new four-year contract.

The 48-year-old has been in charge for the last six years and in that time has turned around the national side's fortunes, ending a 30-year wait to appear at a major tournament when qualifying for Euro 2016.

The Irish reached the last-16 in France two years ago before narrowly missing out on the 2018 World Cup finals when controversial losing to Switzerland in a play-off.

O'Neill's success for Northern Ireland caught the eye of the Scottish FA and they were keen to appoint him as Gordon Strachan's successor after he left in the wake of a failed World Cup qualification campaign.

However, O'Neill turned the job down and has now instead signed the longest and most lucrative contract the Irish FA have ever offered.

O'Neill was already contracted until 2020 so his new deal will see him through until 2024, meaning he will be in charge for the next two European Championship qualifying campaigns and the 2022 World Cup qualification bid.

O'Neill is now looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead for Northern Ireland having taken his time to make sure it was the right choice for him to commit his long-term future.

"I just felt as though it was the right thing to do. I've achieved a lot with Northern Ireland in the last six years but I still feel as though there is work to be done and I look forward to that challenge," said O'Neill.

"The Scotland job was very attractive. I was very flattered by Scottish interest. I live in Scotland and I've played a good part of my career in Scotland, so Scottish football is very close to me.

"I just felt at this time it just didn't feel right. I just didn't have the right gut instinct that it was the next move for me.

"If I'm going to leave Northern Ireland I think realistically it's more likely to be for a club job, than for another association."

Northern Ireland are back in action in March when they face South Korea in a friendly.

They then have a tough Uefa Nations League campaign to look forward to have been placed in a group with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria, with O'Neill's men 20/1 to win the pool.

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