Euro 2020 play-off final defeat not the end of an era for Northern Ireland, insists coach Ian Baraclough


Ian Baraclough insisted that Northern Ireland’s loss to Slovakia did not mark the end of an era as his team’s hopes of reaching Euro 2020 were met with a cruel end in a 2-1 play-off final defeat at Windsor Park.

Michal Duris netted on 110 minutes after an own goal from Milan Skriniar in the 88th minute cancelled out Juraj Kucka’s first-half opener.

Northern Ireland entered the tie as favourites in their pursuit of qualification for a second consecutive Euros, but they could not repeat the heroics of the famous win against Greece from 2015.

There has already been significant turnover in the squad since Euro 2016 as the likes of Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Aaron Hughes have all moved on, and there will now be speculation over the next move for a number of senior players, not least 35-year-old skipper Steven Davis.

Read more: Northern Ireland suffer Euro 2020 play-off heartbreak against Slovakia

But Baraclough said it was too soon to talk about the futures of any of his players.

“There’s not an end-of-an-era feel,” he said. “I’ve told the players they can all go again. It’s not a case of writing anyone off. That’s for you guys to speculate, but you’ll not get that feel from me.”

Northern Ireland have little time to pick themselves up, with their next fixture being away to Austria on Sunday in the Nations League.

Baraclough’s options could be depleted for the match. Aside from those that completed 120 minutes at Windsor Park, Stuart Dallas played on with an elbow injury while both Craig Cathcart and Paddy McNair hobbled off in extra-time.

“There might be five or six from this game that don’t even make the trip,” Baraclough said. “That’s to look at [on Friday]. That’s the nature of these triple-headers, that the squad has to be used to the maximum.

“Now we’ve got to be ready to give a big effort again in three days’ time. We’ve not even talked about Austria yet. It had all been about this game. We’ll start to think about Austria tomorrow.”

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PA

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