Tuesday 24 October 2017

Lamenting the ones that got away is a futile exercise

Kevin Mulligan

Inevitably and quite understandably Dundalk fans are asking themselves if the club made a mistake in failing to sign Sean Maguire following his short loan spell stint with the club in 2015.

That question was murmured after Maguire scored the extra time only goal in last season's FAI Cup final to deny Dundalk the double-double, and since the start of this season that mutter has started to acquire more potency as the striker bagged his eighth goal in eight League matches against Derry City on Friday night.

Deservedly Maguire was awarded 'player of the month' for March by the SWAI.

Needless to say those very same Dundalk fans questioning the decision on Maguire's signature ignore the reality that Cork fans were asking the very same question after their club's failure to re-sign Daryl Horgan at the end of the 2013 season.

Those Cork supporters, like the Dundalk fans now, had to suffer as Horgan blossomed with Dundalk, winning a hatful of individual awards, League medals, a transfer to Preston North End and an Irish international cap against Iceland last month.

To add to their vexation the Cork fans present in Oriel Park last November had to watch as Horgan scored two magnificent goals to effectively deny them the title.

Both Horgan and Maguire are not the only players to punish their former clubs for not retaining them - look at Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea, who may now have to pay Everton £50m. or more for a player they let go for £28m.

It is of course true that players often do not achieve their full potential until they are transferred and both Horgan and Maguire fall into the category.

On his arrival at Oriel Park admittedly for a €10,000 fee, Horgan, especially in his first season, did not show the form that made him an international player, and indeed in his second season at Oriel Park when a number of English scouts were starting to take notice of his talent, former Irish manager, Steve Staunton expressed the view after watching the player, that he needed to look up more when in possession before he could achieve his ambition to earn a transfer to England.

Well we all know that Horgan started to realise that potential last season with Dundalk, especially in Europe where he excelled, and with maturity, and Stephen Kenny's coaching he acquired a greater understanding of the game.

It is much the same with Maguire. When he joined Dundalk mid-season in 2015 on loan from West Ham via Accrington (and after a loan spell with Sligo Rovers) he never looked the player that he has become.

Admittedly he was trying to break into a settled Dundalk side going for their second League title and in which Richie Towell was grabbing all the goal scoring headlines. When Maguire did get his opportunity he was played in a wide position which didn't suit his talents, or in Cup matches when Stephen Kenny tends to give his fringe players a chance.

In total Maguire made just six League appearances and four in Cup competitions, scoring one goal.

Only Dundalk know the full story behind the decision not to offer Maguire a contract for last season, and perhaps the player would not have signed as he was clearly on Cork's radar, with the appeal of moving closer to his native Waterford an added attraction.

With Cork, and especially this season, Maguire, like Horgan has blossomed, his soaring confidence, strength and experience making him the red hot striker in the League.

Both players, of similar physique, may also have taken longer than others to adjust to the physical demands of to-day's game and appear to be motivated by the same desire to prove others wrong.

Maguire, like Horgan, is now being linked with a call up to Martin O'Neill's Irish squad as he is the only Irish striker in Irish and English football who is finding the net consistently.

In that context Cork may not be able to hang onto the player for much longer as Dundalk discovered with Horgan and it may be interesting to see if the Leesiders are tempted by a transfer fee for the player in the English summer close season, denying manager, John Caulfield his talents in the final months of this season.

Naturally Maguire's goals, and the overall improvement in Cork's play - demonstrated again for Friday's TV audience in the manner they outplayed Derry City - is causing Dundalk supporters some concern, even at this early stage of the season.

But it is a long season and anything can yet happen, with Friday's game against Bray Wanderers another opportunity for supporters to voice their backing for the team and now that our very own goal king, David McMillan is starting to find the net there is every reason to believe that this League is far from over.

The Argus