Ian Baraclough has signed a new two-year contract to remain as Northern Ireland Under-21s manager following their impressive run in qualifying for Euro 2019.
Baraclough’s side ultimately fell short of reaching a play-off place but they finished the campaign with four straight wins, highlighted by a 2-1 victory away to Group 2 leaders Spain, to finish second.
That was despite losing the likes of Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis and Gavin Whyte to the senior squad partway through the campaign.
The former Motherwell and Sligo Rovers boss took the job in May last year following a spell as assistant manager at Oldham, and said the experience had exceeded his expectations already.
“I have loved it,” the 47-year-old said.
“When I took over I knew it would be a challenge and I thought it would possibly be a slow burner.
“However, the players, staff and everybody involved have come together and it has just ignited. I am enjoying the job.”
Baraclough added that he is now looking ahead to qualifying for Euro 2021, and noted that 11 members of his current squad would still be eligible.
“This is the first time I have managed a team with a younger element and I have really enjoyed it,” he said.
“There is a challenge with a constant turnover of players, however we introduced quite a few younger players during our last campaign and that will be invaluable going forward.”