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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
McIlroy quits NI for Stockport

Sammy McIlroy's Northern Ireland finished bottom of their Euro 2004 group

Sammy McIlroy has been appointed as the new manager of Stockport County after resigning his post with Northern Ireland.

He was given permission to speak to Stockport on Tuesday and is understood to have signed a three-year deal with the Hatters.

McIlroy, who is thought to have earned 90,000-a-year as manager of Northern Ireland, informed the Irish Football Association of his resignation on Wednesday morning.

"It was a very difficult decision for me to make but this is another challenge for me at Stockport County," said McIlroy.

"Stockport have great ambition, the team has potential and I'm looking forward to working with the players.

"I always wanted to get back into club management and Stockport came along and offered me that chance."

IFA general-secretary David Bowen, earlier, confirmed McIlroy's departure shortly afterwards.

"He has advised that his decision was based entirely on a growing desire to return to the day-to-day cut and thrust of club management," said Bowen.

"He emphasised that in his four years as manager, he deeply appreciated the tremendous support that was given to him by the Association, his squad members and, not least, the supporters who have backed him all the way.

"He wished the IFA and all concerned the very best for the future and especially his successor in the build-up to the World Cup qualifying series next year".

John Hollins took over as caretaker boss at Edgeley Park following the dismissal of Carlton Palmer.

McIlroy endured a miserable run of results with Northern Ireland, prompting his return to club management.

Last Saturday, Northern Ireland lost to Greece and finished bottom of their Euro 2004 qualifying group.

It was the first time in their history Northern Ireland failed to win a game in a qualifying series and they have failed to score in their last 13 matches.

Stockport are currently near the foot of the Nationwide Second Division with 11 points from 13 games.

McIlroy was a successful manager of Macclesfield Town between 1993 and 1999, winning the Vauxhall Conference twice before the club gained League status

McIlroy took over from Lawrie McMenemy as Northern Ireland manager in early 2000 and recently agreed a new two-year contract with the Irish Football Association (IFA).

IFA officials were annoyed by McIlroy's failure to keep them informed of developments on Tuesday evening but the manager did make contact with the governing body on Wednesday morning.

BBC News' Conor Macauley
"McIlroy knew the time had come to step down"

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