Michael O'Neill mbe
Michael O’Neill has been manager of Northern Ireland senior men’s international team since December 2011. Keen to support a Scottish charity from his home in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, Michael became ambassador for Amputee Football Association Scotland in October 2016. He takes an active role in championing the discipline and on occasion takes training sessions with the Scottish national amputee football team in Glasgow, offering his wisdom on international play.
After a 20-year playing career that saw him earn 31 caps for his country, Michael O’Neill first dipped his toe in management in 2005 when he took a part-time role as assistant manager at Scottish side Cowdenbeath, before becoming manager of Brechin City in Scotland in 2006. His managerial prowess quickly becoming apparent, O’Neill left Brechin in 2008 when appointed boss of Shamrock Rovers in Dublin. From a springboard of success, Michael left Shamrock Rovers in December 2011 to be appointed manager of Northern Ireland later that month.
Michael’s first campaign in charge of the international team was the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Despite Northern Ireland finishing fifth in a six-team group, the team earned some creditable results, notably a 1-1 draw away to Portugal and a 1-0 home win against eventual group winners Russia.
Recognising O’Neill’s measured progress and his patent rapport with the players and staff, in November 2013 the Irish Football Association offered Michael a further two-year contract to remain as Northern Ireland manager. It was his second campaign with the international team, namely the qualifiers for the European Championship finals in France in summer 2016, that saw Michael’s stock rise considerably.
The Euro 2016 qualifiers kicked off in September 2014 and over the next 13 months Michael guided the team to a series of unprecedented results as they qualified for the finals as group winners after winning six, drawing three and losing just once. Michael led the team to become the first ever fifth seeds to win a European Championship qualifying group.
The team, now the first from Northern Ireland to compete at a European Championship finals, reached the Round of 16 at Euro 2016 last June, exiting the tournament after a heart-breaking 1-0 defeat to Wales. In the group games in France they lost 1-0 to Poland in Nice and Germany in Paris respectively but earned an historic 2-0 win against Ukraine in Lyon thanks to goals from Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn.
At the end of 2015 Michael was awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Year Coach Award before being awarded the highly coveted RTE Sports Manager of the Year Award. In January 2017, he was appointed an MBE by the Queen for services to football and to the community in Northern Ireland and in June 2017 he was awarded an honourary degree from the University of Ulster, a Doctor of Science (DSc) for services to football in Ireland.