Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland Euro 2020 play-off is now likely to be played in October – to leave the Stoke City manager a decision to be made about his dual role.
O’Neill was given permission by Stoke to see Northern Ireland’s qualification campaign through to its finish in March when he returned to club management in November.
But that qualifier against Bosnia was moved back to June when football shut down – and, at a Uefa meeting today, is now expected to be pushed back to October. A qualifying final, with the winner taking on either Republic of Ireland or Slovakia, is likely to take place in November.
The Uefa Nations League is also pencilled into the diary as planned for September.
O’Neill has always admitted that it would be difficult to juggle his two jobs apart from during that stretch with no international games over the winter.
It suggests that the longer the shut down, the more likely he has already managed his final international fixture.
He previously said: “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.”
Uefa have been trying to set out a future for football after the coronavirus with a meeting via videoconference today. Euro 2020 has already been put back until the summer of 2021.
Interim FAI chief executive Gary Owens explained: “Originally, we thought (the qualifying play-offs) may well be November but it now looks like the semi-final is the preferred option in October.
“They don’t want to have the semi-final and the final of the play-offs in the one month. It looks like the Nations League matches will be in September and October with the semi-final play-off in October and the final play-off in November.”