Ian Baraclough says he'll be keeping a close eye on all of Northern Ireland's potential opponents in the Euro 2020 play-offs, including neighbours the Republic of Ireland.

The former Sligo Rovers manager was appointed to the northern hot seat last month, after his predecessor Michael O'Neill stepped down due to the Euro 2020 delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Irish sides are still in contention for a place at next summer's European Championships, but tantalisingly only one of them can make it to the finals.

This is because they're both in the same play-off path, with Slovakia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Should the Republic beat the former, and the north beat the latter, then it's a November date at Windsor Park to decide who will qualify for Group E at the finals, and a guaranteed two matches at Lansdowne Road.

"There's a good few games before that," Baraclough tells RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport.

"Definitely it does seem a long way off when you look at those games.

"We have to be aware of the games that are being played by other teams that we could possibly meet along the way. So those games will be watched, for sure.

"Our focus is on Romania, and then at home to Norway in September, and then we move onto the (play-off) semi-final.

"It's mouth-watering. It's something that whole of Ireland - north and south - can hopefully look forward to. Let's hope that by November the crowds are allowed to come back.

"Even if it's not a full house, Windsor Park would be buzzing if there was some fans allowed in.

"Unusual circumstances that somebody comes into a new job, taking over a team that's been doing well in recent years.

"And you're only two games away from reaching the Euros. Now there's three other teams in our little section that are desperate to do the same.

"It sounds so close, but there's going to be a lot of hard work put in to make those Euros."

Baraclough lifts the League of Ireland Premier Division trophy in 2012

Away from the international game, the SSE Airtricity League is set to return this weekend with RTÉ broadcasting Dundalk versus St Patrick's Athletic live on Friday night on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player.

Baraclough spent three successful seasons with Sligo Rovers between 2012 and 2014, claiming a Premier Division title, an FAI Cup, as well as the 2014 Setanta Cup, where his Rovers team beat a Dundalk side manager by one Stephen Kenny, now the manager of the Republic.

Since his departure, Rovers have not finished higher than fifth, and will resume on Friday night against Derry City bottom of the table, with no points.

And with just 13 games left to be played in the league this season, the Bit o' Red don't have much time to hang around.

"I keep an eye out for the results, I have done since I left the place," admitted Baraclough.

"I've still got one or two friends there as well, I made some really good friendships.

"It's been disappointing to see that they've not been able to hit the heights since, but it's never easy with Sligo Rovers.

"But I'm delighted to get the job, and it was nice to get some calls and some messages from people around Sligo, and around the football club.

"And other areas of southern Ireland as well."

The good feeling for Baraclough in his old stomping ground might have to be temporarily paused if the two Irelands end up deciding each other's Euro 2020 fate.

But to paraphrase the Leicester-native, there's a lot of football to be played before we reach that point. 

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