BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MICHAEL O’NEILL has expressed his delight after Austin MacPhee signed on to be Ian Cathro’s number two at Hearts, allowing him to continue his work with Northern Ireland.
MacPhee, 37, has been a pivotal part of O’Neill’s backroom staff for two years, helping them upset the odds by reaching Euro 2016 – their first appearance at a major championships since 1986.
Northern Ireland currently occupy second spot in their qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and O’Neill was desperate to keep his managerial team in place.
If MacPhee had accepted the role of performance director of the Scottish Football Association he would have severed ties with Northern Ireland, whereas his arrival at Hearts will see him combine duties.
O’Neill, who attended Hearts’ win over Rangers last Wednesday alongside MacPhee, said: “I am pleased that Austin has been appointed to the Hearts job and I wish him every success at the club.
“His services were much sought after and I know that he will relish the chance of making an impact in the Scottish Premiership.
“Austin has been an important part of our international coaching team ever since he joined us in 2014.”
Speaking to Northern Ireland’s official website, he added: “Austin works well alongside our assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl and brings great knowledge of the game. I am delighted that he is staying with Northern Ireland.”