Northern Ireland likely to part company with Michael O'Neill in June
MICHAEL O’Neill’s reign as Northern Ireland manager is likely to end this June, whether or not he secures qualification to the re-scheduled Euro 2021 tournament.
Mick McCarthy may well continue for longer in charge of the Republic of Ireland, although the FAI may have its own decision to make, with Stephen Kenny scheduled to step up from the U21 international role to take over the senior job after the conclusion of any Euro 2020 involvement.
The question will be how soon the FAI wants Kenny in charge - from this autumn? - or if Mccarthy will be kept on until the end of any involvement in this now extended Euro campaign.
The Nations League/ Euro semi-final play-offs, which involved both Irish international sides, have been re-fixed for early this June – subject to a review of the situation - with Euro 2021 a year later, from June 11 to July 11.
Those play-off dates, if the games can go ahead, should allow O’Neill to oversee the semi-final away to Bosnia & Herzegovina – and a potential final play-off against either Slovakia or the Republic in Belfast.
However, if the coronavirus crisis pushes the return of international football action back any later, into the autumn of this year, that would probably end O’Neill’s time in charge of NI.
O’Neill effectively ruled himself out of prolonged involvement in comments made last week.
Talking about the difficulty or otherwise of juggling being both a club and international manager, the Stoke City boss commented:
“November to March is the quietest part of an international manager's calendar and that has coincided with the period I've been in charge here.
“It wouldn't be doable if you were doing it September, October and November, that wouldn't be an option.”
There has been some pressure for Kenny to step up and succeed McCarthy sooner rather than later, but the FAI is likely to stick with the 61-year-old for that play-off away to Slovakia and a potential decider against the winners of that other Path B semi-final.
The FAI expressed its support for Uefa’s decisions, made during a video conference of all 55 member associations.
FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens said: “UEFA has made the right decision today in the interests of the health and well-being of football players, fans and staff alike.
“We support this decision and we look forward to working with all our stakeholders on reorganising UEFA EURO 2021 for Dublin next year. We would like to thank all our partners – the Government, Dublin City Council, Aviva Stadium and all the agencies and partners who have worked really well with us on the UEFA EURO 2020 project for the last few years.
“We have agreed with these partners that we will now begin to plan together for the four UEFA EURO 2021 games here next year which will be the Centenary year of the FAI.”
FAI President Gerry McAnaney added: “The health of the community is of paramount importance to the FAI so we support this decision by UEFA today.
“The most important thing now is for football to work together during this pandemic. I appeal to our players, supporters and staff to look out for each other and to follow the HSE guidelines at all times.
“Irish football will return and we have much to look forward to now in the coming months and in welcoming Europe to Dublin in our Centenary year of 2021.”
The play-off semi-finals are now planned for a date between Monday June 1 and Tuesday June 9, with Uefa having secured the release of players for all rescheduled international matches.
UEFA has produced a number of different scenarios on dates when football can resume with a strong desire to complete all winter-season domestic competitions by June 28 at the latest.
Looking ahead to Euro 2021, four matches are still planned to take place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, and UEFA has reassured all existing ticket buyers and hospitality clients that if they cannot attend the tournament in 2021 then packages will be refunded in full.
As a result of the deferral of Euro 2020, UEFA Women's EURO 2021, the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers planned for June 2021, and the 2021 UEFA European U21 Championships will all be rescheduled.
UEFA has created a working group to continuously manage the football calendar, with any changes to be communicated as soon as possible.