Sunday 22 October 2017

'I think I would rise to that challenge' - Sean Maguire discusses his hopes of an Ireland cap

Preston North End's Jordan Hugill celebrates scoring
Preston North End's Jordan Hugill celebrates scoring
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Seán Maguire says he’d have no problem in stepping up to answer the call for international duty next month if he gets the nod from Martin O’Neill.

Last weekend was a big deal for the 23-year-old as he scored his first goal for Preston since his July move from Cork City,  in a 1-1 draw at home to Barnsley.

The only Irishman in the top two divisions in England or Scotland to score over the weekend, Maguire had an audience at Preston’s home of Deepdale as Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was among the crowd of 12,813 to see the goal.

With one of the worst home scoring records in the European section of World Cup qualification (Ireland netted just twice in four home qualifiers), goals are needed, badly needed, for the next two qualifiers.

And while Martin O’Neill’s public comments suggest that an uncapped player like Maguire would need time in and around the squad before he could think of playing, the player himself has no issues with making the leap.

“It’s not up to me to decide but if I keep playing and keep improving, I have a chance,” Maguire told The Herald.

“If I do get the opportunity to make the final squad and maybe play for Martin and Roy, I think I would rise to that challenge.

“I was in the 39-man squad for the last games, that was a big honour for me and my family but making the next step is what I want. I can’t look too far ahead but if the chance came for me, I feel I could play.

I know the level I am playing at now. I rose to the challenge of playing in Europe for Cork, I have risen to the challenge here with Preston, I have my first goal now, there is room for improvement. But if I got that call from Ireland, I’d see it as another challenge to meet.

“I feel physically sharper now as I have improved a lot and my confidence is high now after scoring.

“I didn’t get to speak to Roy Keane on Saturday but I know he was there, he’d been to see us a couple of times as we have so many Irish boys in the squad.”

Maguire moved over in July and while he made his mark with a goal in a pre-season friendly for his new club, he had to wait until Saturday for his first competitive goal. And he believes that his previous experience in the UK, as a teenager with West Ham, had him ready.

“There was a bit of pressure on me when I came over, having scored 20 goals in 21 games for Cork, people had high expectations for me,” says Maguire, who went five games without a goal for Preston before his first arrived.

“If this was three or so years ago, like when I came over to West Ham, I know I’d have lost confidence by not scoring in three or four matches. But I am a different person and a different player now, I knew I was playing well for Preston, without getting too many chances.

“I knew the opportunity would come, when that ball came into me on Saturday I saw the opportunity and it was a big relief off my shoulders to see it go in. The first goal and the first of many, I hope,” he says.

“Walking back to the half-way line after scoring, I hadn’t celebrated like that in a long time as the goal meant to much to me. We have struggled to score, just three goals in the league, but once we click as a team, no one will stop us as this is a hungry, young team.”

That debut goal now tucked away, Maguire is easing into life in Lancashire, the move out of a hotel and into a house last week a big help, as was ditching the Irish-registered car he has been driving. “I didn’t feel too comfortable driving my Irish-reg car around the place over here, I have a car and house sorted now, so it’s all good.”

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