Football/Soccer

Republic and Northern Ireland to meet in November friendly

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill will meet again at the Aviva in Dublin this November, having been there together at an FAI Cup Final. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

UEFA’S definition of a ‘friendly’ may be questioned by some when the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland meet in Dublin this November.

Although the draw for the new Uefa Nations League kept the two sides apart, the associations have agreed to meet in Dublin on Thursday November 15 (7.45pm).

That will be almost exactly a quarter-century to the day of the infamous ‘night in November’ at Windsor Park in a qualifier for the 1994 World Cup.

However, relations are much more cordial now and certainly should be on the sideline, where there will be a first managerial meeting between the two O’Neills, Martin and Michael.

Indeed the latter commented: “From a personal point of view I am looking forward to managing a team against Martin, a manager who I hugely respect and admire.”

The Northern Ireland boss revealed that the game has come about at Uefa’s insistence, in one respect, explaining:

“UEFA have made it mandatory that we play a friendly on that date and when we looked at the options across Europe, travelling to Dublin to play the Republic of Ireland made a lot of sense.

“It means that we can stay on the island for the week, train in our usual environment and play a game that will be a good test for us ahead of the Austria match.”

Northern Ireland’s final match in group three of League B will be against the Austrians in Belfast on Sunday November 18, while the Republic will conclude their group four campaign away to Denmark on Monday November 19.

Michael O’Neill expects a tight tussle between the two Irish teams, the first such meeting since a 5-0 home win at the same venue in the unmissed Carling nations Cup in May 2011:

“Both countries qualified for UEFA EURO 2016 and both narrowly missed out on qualification for Russia, so it will be an evenly matched and hard-fought contest.

“Qualification for UEFA EURO 2020 is our number one priority now and with the UEFA Nations League a potential route to the tournament this game means that we will be as prepared as possible for the Austria match.”

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