Michael O'Neill asks Northern Ireland fans to follow coronavirus advice

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill penned an open letter to Northern Ireland supporters yesterday, asking them to heed the advice regarding the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

ON the day when his Northern Ireland side were scheduled to take on Bosnia-Herzegovina in a Euro 2020 play-off, boss Michael O’Neill urged fans to follow government advice amid the ongoing battle against coronavirus.

That play-off semi-final was due to take place in Zeneca last night, and O’Neill’s men should have been waking up this morning either elated after a job well done or smarting from the death of a dream. Instead they are in limbo, with that game pushed back to June while the finals themselves have been postponed until 2021.

O’Neill took the opportunity to write an open letter to Northern Ireland fans yesterday, expressing his and the squad's disappointment at not playing before reinforcing the message regarding coronavirus.

"Football players, managers and coaches are not immune to the potential effects of this deadly virus," said the Ballymena man.

"We have family members and friends who are classed as vulnerable. We care for them deeply and don't want them to come to any harm.

"We can help keep our loved ones safe by working together in tackling the spread of Covid-19 and following the guidelines issued by the government and the health authorities. It is in everyone's best interests to do so."

Where this latest unexpected development leaves O’Neill’s international future remains to be seen as, having been appointed Stoke City manager early in the season, his Northern Ireland commitments were expected to come to an end once the Euro 2020 campaign was over.

Whatever happens though, he said he was sure supporters would continue to get behind the team as they bid to reach the tournament.

“The match against Bosnia and Herzegovina has been rescheduled for June. It may or may not take place then,” he continued.

“I am sure that when it eventually does go ahead we will be able to count on your support as we once again strive to qualify for a major tournament.

“In the meantime, though, we all need each other's help and support. Please keep in touch with friends and family by using remote technology such as phone, internet and social media.

"Stay home if you can. If you do have to go outside please ensure it is only to get food or that it's for health reasons or essential work.

"If we all follow the rules then hopefully it won't be too long before you, the GAWA, get to sing your hearts out again. I very much look forward to that day."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access