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Saturday 10 December 2016

'We have to go and do ourselves justice'

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who were jointly presented with the Philips Manager of the Year Award this month
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who were jointly presented with the Philips Manager of the Year Award this month

As they pack their bags today for an early-morning flight to Paris tomorrow, Martin and Michael O'Neill are planning to leave all the permutations for the Euro 2016 draw to the anoraks and focus on the job in hand - getting into the knock-out stage of the European Championship finals.

The two O'Neills will join the other 22 managers competing for Euro 2016 in the French capital tomorrow, on what is bound to be a day of nerves until the UEFA sideshow clears the stage and allows the draw itself take place.

Various websites allow fans engage in a bit of pre-draw fun and conduct a virtual draw, throwing up nightmare and dream scenarios.

Ireland were lucky, in terms of logistics, with the group draw for Euro 2012 with all three group games played in Poland, and with distance between the host cities a factor, both manager from Ireland will hope to get a draw that's favourable, but for Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, the prospect of facing one of the big guns - as happened to the Republic in Poland where two of our group opponents went on to contest the final - is not a worry.

"Having got there, the big thing for us is to go there and do ourselves justice," says Michael O'Neill.

"In the four years I have been in charge, our best performances have come against the big nations, against the likes of Russia and Portugal in the last campaign, we go there as a pot-four team, an underdog and we will relish the fact that we will be playing teams who are more favoured than us.

"It's difficult to say until you know who you are drawn against but we want to make our way out of the group, there is an opportunity for the best third-placed teams to get out of the group and getting out of the group is our intention," added the Northern Ireland boss.

The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris tomorrow, starting at 6pm (Irish time).

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