Michael O'Neill says Irish League should have more young players

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Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has said that more younger players should be given the chance to play in the Irish League.

O'Neill, whose career included spells at Coleraine and Glentoran, believes that the current Irish League requires "a bit of radical change".

"I would like to see younger players playing in the Irish League," said O'Neill.

"They would hopefully use that as a stepping stone to going cross-channel."

O'Neill added: "If we don't send players across at 16, their only option to play their way into the professional game is through the Irish League.

"There haven't been enough players who have done that particularly over the past five or 10 years and used it as a stepping stone to going across the water and then going on to have an international career.

"I believe this is as good a time as any to look at ways of improving the Irish League.

"I don't think it is as strong as it could be. And I think there's not much to lose by trying things differently."

O'Neill was speaking at the unveiling of the Irish FA's five-year strategic plan for football in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

The Northern Ireland manager began his playing career at Coleraine in 1984 and played for Glentoran between 2002 and 2004.