Home » Build-up to international matches and latest football news

Build-up to international matches and latest football news

O’Neill ‘positive’ about young squadpublished at 14:53 22 March

Romania v Northern Ireland (19:45 GMT)

Northern Ireland

Michael O'NeillImage source, Getty Images

Michael O’Neill enjoyed a successful first stint as Northern Ireland boss guiding them to the Euros in 2016.

But it has not all been plain sailing since he returned to the role in December 2022. After losing senior player after senior player in an injury-hit Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, he has had little choice but to “accelerate” younger players into his set-up.

And while it has led to short-term pain – the opportunity to qualify for the Euros from a group lacking any of Europe’s heavyweights was missed – O’Neill’s objectives have switched and his focus is now very much on the future.

With 2026 World Cup qualifying looming after the Nations League begins in September, the former Stoke City boss is hopeful that friendlies away to Romania and Scotland are the next step on the journey for his team.

“This is about building a team from a very young player base,” O’Neill said.

“It is about keeping the older players we have engaged and making them feel valuable, which they are, and hopefully see these younger players adapt to international football and accelerate quite quickly. We are asking a lot at times.

“We’re positive about what lies ahead but it is quite difficult to accelerate the process, it is about building the experience and hopefully each experience is another positive for them.”

You’ll be able to follow Northern Ireland’s match in Bucharest on Friday evening live on the BBC Sport website and listen to it on BBC Sounds and Radio Ulster.