Casement Park: NI boss Michael O'Neill says Euro 2028 venue should not be source of 'conflict'

Euro 2024 qualifiers: Finland v Northern Ireland

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Helsinki Date: Friday, 17 November Kick-off: 17:00 BST

Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio Ulster; live text and report on BBC Sport website; highlights on BBC One NI

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has reiterated his belief that Casement Park being a venue for Euro 2028 should not be a source of "conflict".

O'Neill was questioned on the issue after the Irish FA said that Windsor Park cannot be expanded to make it an alternative venue as a host ground.

The IFA was responding to a suggestion from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs to bring Windsor up to the 30,000-capacity needed to stage games in a tournament being hosted by the UK and Ireland.

"This is a sporting event and to be part of a sporting event as a home nation is a special thing," O'Neill said in Helsinki while preparing for his side's Euro 2024 qualifier against Finland on Friday night.

"The opportunity to host a major tournament in our own country is something that I think we should embrace as opposed to have it as a point of argument or conflict as it seems to be at this moment in time."

Northern Ireland's home ground of Windsor Park in south Belfast can house 18,500 supporters, which is well below the required 30,000-capacity minimum stipulated by Uefa for Euro finals.

That is why Casement Park, a gaelic games ground in west Belfast, was named in the UK and Ireland's bid to host the Euro 2028 competition. However, the Casement site is currently derelict and plans for its redevelopment have been hit by delays and spiralling costs.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs, said that fans have questions and concerns about the redevelopment of Casement Park.

"It's a football tournament using money that could be used for football to build a stadium for another sport and no tangible benefit for Northern Ireland football," he told BBC Sport NI.

Mr McAllister added: "I'm pretty sure that Northern Ireland fans are behind us on this. People are concerned about the lack of legacy for football, they have concerns about security and safety."

He said his group would continue to lobby the IFA and "other stakeholders".

O'Neill has been asked for his opinion on the Casement Park issue on the eve of matches in September and October, and stressed on Thursday in Helsinki that his focus is on football, adding that he is not sure how much more he can say on the matter.

"I manage the team, not the stadium, first of all," he said.

"My opinion hasn't changed from when I was asked this question two or three weeks ago, or two or three weeks before that either. That [the IFA saying Windsor could not be expanded] is a response, obviously, to concerns that the supporters had made and that is a matter for the association.

"I've spoken about the situation on many occasions and you have had my opinion on that in the past."

Asked if he felt the Northern Ireland supporters must now get behind Casement as a venue, he responded: "I've said if we are going to be part of the bid for 2028, we know how the bid was submitted.

"I think that is the choice that we have. It is about trying to make sure that when 2028 arrives we are in good shape. My job is to make sure the team is ready for 2028, not the stadium."