REUTERS: Michael O'Neill has left his job as Northern Ireland manager after eight years in charge due to the proposed rescheduling of international fixtures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish Football Association said on Wednesday.
O'Neill, who is also the manager of English Championship (second-tier) side Stoke City, was set to oversee Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 playoff semi-final away to Bosnia and Herzegovina which was initially scheduled for March 26.
But with European governing body UEFA likely to reschedule the game for September after it pushed the Euros back a year, O'Neill, 50, said this was the best time to step down.
"After careful consideration and following discussions with the Irish FA I feel it is only fair that now is the right time for me to step aside," O'Neill said in a statement https://www.irishfa.com/news/2020/april/michael-oneill-permanently-leaves-role-as-ni-manager.
"I would have loved the opportunity to manage Northern Ireland in the UEFA 2020 playoff game... and the chance to qualify for another major tournament, but the current situation means that this is no longer possible.
"It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021, but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight-year tenure."
O'Neill took charge of Northern Ireland in 2011 and oversaw their qualification for Euro 2016 - the nation's first major international tournament in 30 years - where they were knocked out in the last 16.
Global soccer has been brought to a virtual standstill by the new coronavirus outbreak, with all major European leagues as well as European club competitions suspended.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)