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Friday, Dec. 30, 2011

Northern Ireland hires O'Neill


LONDON — Michael O'Neill will attempt to guide Northern Ireland to a first major tournament since 1986 after being hired as the country's new manager on a two-year deal Wednesday.

The former Newcastle midfielder will take charge on Feb. 1 after being chosen ahead of two other former Northern Ireland internationals, Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie, as the replacement for Nigel Worthington.

The 42-year-old O'Neill came to prominence this season by leading Shamrock Rovers into the group stages of the Europa League — an unprecedented achievement for a club from Ireland. He quit as manager this month, fueling speculation he would be taken on by Northern Ireland.

"To be entrusted with the role early in my managerial career is quite humbling but I am confident that we can make progress," he said.

"Northern Ireland has a strong football tradition but one that needs to be refreshed with some contemporary success."

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