Former Newcastle United striker Michael O'Neill banned from the road for drink-driving

Michael O'Neill outside court today.
Michael O'Neill outside court today.

Northern Ireland football manager and former Newcastle United striker Michael O'Neill has pleaded guilty to drink driving.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard he was caught by police on the outskirts of the city at about 1am on September 10 around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

Sheriff Thomas Welsh banned O'Neill, who played up front for Newcastle between 1987-89, from driving for 16 months and fined him £1,300.

Prosecutor Chloe Shoniwa told the court that police officers had "reason to stop" Mr O'Neill as he drove on the Edinburgh city bypass between Lothianburn and Straiton.

They breathalysed him and he was found to have a breath alcohol level of 65mcg compared to the legal limit of 22mcg.

Solicitor James Mulgrew, representing Mr O'Neill, 48, told the court: "This was simply a bad error of judgement on the part of Mr O'Neill."

Mr Mulgrew said O'Neill is "contrite" and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

He added: "He has no analogous record and no record to speak of with only one limited endorsement currently on his licence."

He urged the sheriff to take into account that the football manager has held a driving licence for 31 years.

Sheriff Welsh said O'Neill, who lives in the Edinburgh area, was three times over the Scottish drink drive limit.

He told him: "You do not have a record for this type of thing. I treat your prior record as being minor in the extent of this case.

"I am satisfied that you pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. You deserve credit for that as you have not wasted the court's time."

He said Mr O'Neill could reduce his driving ban by a quarter by completing a drink-drive rehabilitation course, which his solicitor said he is willing to do.

O'Neill made no comment to reporters as he left the court.

He became manager of Northern Ireland in 2012 and has led it to unprecedented success.

He guided his side to the last 16 in their first-ever European Championship finals appearance in France at Euro 2016.