Northern Ireland lining up friendly against Qatar

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

Northern Ireland are set to finalise details for a friendly against Qatar at the end of May.

The Irish FA threw their hat in the ring to be considered for the game, after they discovered their Qatari counterparts were eager to secure a fixture in England.

IFA bosses and manager Michael O’Neill are keen to announce May 31 as the date, four days ahead of another, as yet unconfirmed, friendly against Wales in Cardiff, and designed as warm-ups for the following Euro 2016 Group F qualifier against Romania, on June 13.

The Midlands is being surveyed for possible locations, although the logistics will be handled by a match agent, working on behalf of the Qatar FA.

Therefore Middle East chiefs will ultimately have the choice of venue.

O’Neill said: “They’ll be based at St George’s Park for a few weeks, so yes, it could be in the Midlands.

“The main thing for me is to get two games before we play Romania on June 13, we have the Wales game on June 4, so this means we don’t have to travel.

“I can give the players a few days off before the qualifier.”

IFA president Jim Shaw said O’Neill’s preference for two games before the Romania friendly influenced the decision to open talks with Qatar.

Shaw said: “He is also a big part of this. If he didn’t see this game as a plus, we wouldn’t play it. What is also different from previous friendlies is we have already had commitment from the players they will be available.”

The controversial decision to award Qatar a World Cup, and ongoing debate surrounding it, means this friendly could attract a great deal of publicity.

Shaw added: “It’s a key opportunity for us, and will not cost us a penny. I doubt we will generate much income.”