Michael O'Neill's return as Northern Ireland manager confirmed

Michael O'Neill led Northern Ireland to their first European Championship finals in 2016 Credit: Presseye

The IFA has confirmed Michael O'Neill will return for a second stint as Northern Ireland manager.

The 53-year-old's appointment as Ian Baraclough's successor was confirmed at a Windsor Park press conference on Wednesday after talks with the Irish FA accelerated in the last 48 hours.

O'Neill guided Northern Ireland to a first major tournament in 30 years when he led them to Euro 2016 but resigned in April 2020 after taking the Stoke job a few months before.

O'Neill was sacked by Stoke in August and he quickly emerged as the favourite for the job when former Under-21s boss Ian Baraclough was shown the door in late October.

Stephen Robinson, Tommy Wright, Kenny Shiels and David Healy were also seen as candidates, but the Irish FA's first priority was to persuade the popular O'Neill to take charge for a second time.

Although he struggled to make an impact in the Championship, O'Neill is still revered by the Green and White Army for the job he did in revitalising the national side.

His return will fuel hopes that Northern Ireland can capitalise on a favourable draw for Euro 2024 qualifying, where they will face Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and San Marino.

O'Neill will need to rebuild confidence in a squad that struggled under Baraclough, who took almost a year to register his first victory inside 90 minutes, and who narrowly avoided back-to-back relegations in the Nations League thanks to goal difference.

The qualifying draw should offer the opportunity to do just that, with an away match against minnows San Marino up first in March before a home game against Finland at Windsor Park.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.