Irish FA president David Martin hopeful new NI boss will be appointed by mid-August

David Martin
David Martin has been Irish FA president since 2016

Northern Ireland hope to have a new manager appointed by mid-August, Irish Football Association president David Martin has said.

Martin said the recruitment process for Michael O'Neill's successor has begun and that his preference would be to interview candidates face-to-face.

Northern Ireland's postponed Euro 2020 semi-final play-off away to Bosnia-Herzegovina looks likely to be played in September or October.

"We have plenty of time," Martin said.

"Coronavirus has slowed everything down, including football. I am not that keen on doing video interviews and much prefer face to face, but we don't know when the social distancing will be relaxed.

"We are in the early stages of the recruitment process. I do not want to speak about it in any more detail, but we are hopeful of having the new manager in place well in advance of our next international."

The winner of Northern Ireland's play-off in Bosnia would meet either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia at home for a place at the Euro finals, which have been delayed until next summer because of the coronavirus crisis.

David Martin and Michael O'Neill
O'Neill signed a new contract with Northern Ireland in February 2018

O'Neill left his international role permanently for Stoke City last month, with Ian Baraclough, Tommy Wright and Stephen Robinson believed to be in the frame to replace him.

"The Uefa executive committee is due to meet on 17 June and we will have a better indication after that about when we will be playing our Nations League games and the play-off in Bosnia," said Martin, who is still hopeful that the Super Cup will come to Windsor Park next year.

"We are in the play-off semi-final and are excited about that. Whether that game will be played behind closed doors will depend on the government and health regulations.

"Travel is another issue to be considered, but I imagine we will know a lot more in a month's time than we do now."

When considering club football in Northern Ireland, which has been halted since March, Martin said he expected a decision on the remainder of the Irish Premiership season to be made on Monday.

He revealed that, contrary to some suggestions, the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) cannot nominate teams to take up places in European competitions, and then finish the league afterwards.

The president also said that, while playing behind closed doors is an option clubs may have to consider, he believes they could struggle financially if they have to do that.

"We at the Irish FA have a plan for the game for the next four years and each league has to have its own plan," continued Martin, who also said that if the Irish Premiership season could be completed then the Irish Cup could too.

"NIFL has the opportunity to decide for itself what it wants to do, and whether it wants to carry on. Keep in mind, there will be significant costs to that and government regulations will be key.

"The original date for them to make a decision for Uefa was 25 May but that has been put back until 12 June, when NIFL has to have a plan to indicate how it intends to finish the season.

Title holders Linfield are currently top of the Irish Premiership table
Title holders Linfield are currently top of the Irish Premiership table

"That would of course include the representatives that will play in the Uefa competitions in season 2020-21.

"Behind closed doors [matches] would be a big challenge for the semi-professional game and it will be interesting to see what announcements NIFL will make on that issue.

"Clubs at our level do depend heavily for revenue on gate receipts from fans coming through the door. It is clearly something that will need to be addressed as time goes on."

A number of junior leagues, including the Mid-Ulster League and the Ballymena Provincial League, made the decision last week to end their seasons and award positions on a points-per-game basis.

While not commenting on those decisions, Martin did express some concern about the schedule of NIFL's top three divisions coming out of sync with the junior leagues.

"That is something we have to discuss with all parties and it [an overlap of seasons] is a concern. There are other issues such as registration of players that need to be taken into consideration," he added.

"Coming out of Covid-19 will be a brand new opportunity and hopefully a bright new dawn. Summer football is very much a possibility, it is down for debate but will be a matter for the clubs.

"Football will recover. It has a background in our towns and communities, and I have no doubt that football will recover rapidly once we come out of the pandemic."