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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
McIlroy wants Wales game
Sammy McIlroy salutes the NI fans after the 0-0 draw against Ukraine
Sammy McIlroy believes his NI side have a bright future
Former Manchester United stars Sammy McIlroy and Mark Hughes could go head-to-head in February.

Northern Ireland manager McIlroy wants a warm-up game before his team regroup for their next Euro 2004 qualifier in Armenia in March.

He feels Wales would be wonderful opposition, especially after their superb victory over Italy on Wednesday evening.

Hughes has galvanised the Principality and McIlroy - whose side drew 0-0 with Ukraine on the same evening - is pushing for a meeting.

The two men were at Old Trafford in the early 80s when McIlroy was a senior player and Hughes an apprentice.


They had a fantastic result against Italy and you have to admire them
Sammy McIlroy

"I would like a game in February," said the Irish boss.

"I have spoken to Mark Hughes about trying to do something.

"I haven't heard anything back from him yet but it would be great experience for my young players.

"They had a fantastic result against Italy and you have to admire them for that".

Asked where he would like the match to be staged, McIlroy joked: "I would like it at the Millennium Stadium in front of 70,000 people and go half gate!"

McIlroy can only look on at the Wales renaissance and infrastructure under Hughes' leadership with a degree of envy.

Philip Mulryne battles with Ukraine's Maxym Kalymychenko on Wednesday
Phil Mulryne is one of NI's big hopes

The Irish drew only 9,000 to Windsor Park on Wednesday and he was forced to field a depleted side with five players ruled out.

McIlroy said: "Wales are clicking now and have some good Premiership players in there.

"Of course we would love to get to their level and achieve that kind of result.

"If we had seven Premiership players (like Wales) against Spain, then perhaps it might have been different".

The Irish lost that match - their opening qualifier 3-0 - but McIlroy was heartened by the way they played against Ukraine.

He believes the future is bright with the likes of Aaron Hughes, George McCartney, Damien Johnson, Phil Mulryne, Paul McVeigh and David Healy.

"We have a number of players who could be there for years when you think of what age they are," said McIlroy.

"That gives me me a lot of hope for the future if these boys keep progressing the way they are doing.

"If we can keep them together the experience they can gain will be invaluable".


N Ireland 0-0 Ukraine

Ukraine in focus

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