Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has turned down an approach to become Sunderland's new manager, it is understood.
The Black Cats had earmarked O'Neill as one of their key targets for the vacant role at the Stadium of Light but the Sunderland Echo reports that he has rejected an approach from the Championship side.
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Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain had been impressed by O'Neill's work with Northern Ireland, who he led to Euro 2016 and to the verge of the 2018 World Cup.
The Black Cats’ desire to sound out the highly-rated 48-year-old has been one of the reasons for the protracted search that has now entered a third week, and they may still try to persuade him again to come to Wearside.
The Sunderland Echo understands that contact was made between intermediaries and O'Neill's representatives earlier this week after Northern Ireland lost their play-off against Switzerland, and provisional discussions over the role took place.
Paul Heckingbottom remains the frontrunner for the job, but he revealed today he's had no approach from Sunderland.