EURO 2016: Michael O’Neill leaves tournament plans to Irish Football Association

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland’s preparations are already well under way for Euro 2016, but manager Michael O’Neill did not want to tempt fate by travelling to France personally.

With the side sitting top of Group F going into this month’s double-header, it made sense for the Irish Football Association to make an early start on scouting potential training bases.

But O’Neill preferred to play safe, focusing on the decisive qualifiers and allowing the IFA’s head of international administration, David Currie, to do reconnaissance.

An un-named venue has been identified and, after Thursday’s famous win over Greece guaranteed their spot in the tournament, Northern Ireland may have stolen a march on other nations who have yet to qualify.

“I’ve not looked personally at any of the venues but David Currie has, to start the ball rolling,” O’Neill told BBC Northern Ireland ahead of Sunday’s final qualifier against Finland.

“I didn’t want to tempt fate by visiting France and going through that.

“I’m not superstitious at all in terms of anything I do on matchday but I didn’t want to get head of myself.

“I just wanted to focus on each game as it came along.

“So David has done a bit of groundwork in relation to the venues available to us. Hopefully we get the one we’ve tentatively chosen, I think you put three down and hopefully get the one you want.”

Now that he knows Northern Ireland will not be involved in a play-off next month - which was actually the manager’s stated ambition at the outset of the campaign - O’Neill is hoping to schedule a Windsor Park friendly in the next international break.

“We’ll hopefully have a game in November, a home game,” he said.

“That’s in the pipeline at the moment and it will probably just be one because it’s maybe important not to keep the players too long away from their clubs.”