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The great divide


(l-r) Shamrock Rovers’ Trevor Clarke and Cork City’s Sean Maguire have both been tipped to make the breakthrough to the Irish senior squad.

(l-r) Shamrock Rovers’ Trevor Clarke and Cork City’s Sean Maguire have both been tipped to make the breakthrough to the Irish senior squad.

(l-r) Shamrock Rovers’ Trevor Clarke and Cork City’s Sean Maguire have both been tipped to make the breakthrough to the Irish senior squad.

Daryl Horgan joked that it was the presence of "a few League of Ireland heads" in the Lansdowne Road crowd which helped him gain a warm welcome when he came off the bench for his international debut on Tuesday night.

He wasn't to know it at the time but Horgan and his former Dundalk team-mate Andy Boyle a little bit of history when they played against Iceland, as they made the quickest transition from the LOI to the international stage in the modern era, winning their debut caps less than four months after they formally signed for Preston.

That's the sort of overnight success which Stephen Ward, David Forde and David Meyler can only envy as that trio had at least a four-year wait for their first senior caps having left the LOI. Even Seamus Coleman had to wait for years to be capped once he left Sligo Rovers.

But as the Doyle/Long strike force (combined age: 63) saw out the turgid Iceland game, without seeing any goal chances, the thought came to mind: should it not have been current LOI man Sean Maguire (6 goals in 6 games for Cork City) out there for the last 20 minutes, instead of sub Shane Long picking up his 73rd cap?

Boyle and Horgan broke the glass ceiling when they made the squad (and bench, in Horgan's case) for the qualifier in Austria last year while they were still LOI players, but can player ever hope to get the nod and get capped for Ireland while playing for an Irish club?

"If you go on the evidence of the last few years, it seems to be the case that you have to be away if you want to get a cap," Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley says.

"No one can tell me that Daryl Horgan has become an unbelievable player since he left Dundalk, he was ready to play when he was at Dundalk and that's the case for a lot of players," added Bradley, who feels that his former team-mate at Drogheda United, Keith Fahey, could have been capped before his move to Birmingham City.

Bradley, who played at U21 level alongside Glenn Whelan, Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy, has vast experience in the game and is still a highly-regarded member of Arsenal's scouting team, yet he still sees talent in the league here worth capping.

"Will Seanie Maguire become a top-class international player? I can't answer that as it's a big jump, but in a game like the Iceland one this week, why not play him and see how he copes," he asks. "It would have done no harm to try out someone like Sean in a game like that."


It won't be easy for home-based talents to break in when players who did play in the LOI but now ply their trade at what's seen as a higher level cross-channel are unable to make the senior international squad, ex-LOI lads like Matt Doherty, Christopher Forrester and Richie Towell still uncapped.

Paddy Madden, second-top scorer for a Scunthorpe United side with real ambitions of being in the Championship, has only been in one squad since his debut in 2013.

Maguire's exclusion is nothing new: yes, he did win 13 U21 caps but all of those were as sub, and in seven of those he played less than 10 minutes, hardly a fair hearing.

A tentative case could be made for Maguire, Patrick McEleney (Dundalk), Kevin O'Connor (Cork) and Dylan Connolly (Bray) to get international recognition - but if Forrester, who played for his club in front of 18,000 people recently, can't get in a 39-man squad, what hope is there for McEleney?

Bradley has one of the finest young talents in the league at his disposal in the form of Trevor Clarke, who rejoins the Hoops squad for tonight's clash with Finn Harps as he was on Euro qualifying duty with the Irish U19s.

But does Clarke stand a better chance of being capped at senior level if he was at Sheffield Wednesday instead of Shamrock Rovers? "It looks that way," says Bradley. "But of all the players who have left this league, Trevor is up there. I got the reports of how he did with the U19s, he was the stand-out player in a team that beat Italy and Belgium. If Trevor keeps up his form, it's only a matter of time before he moves away and becomes an international.

"Trevor is only 19 but if he was to go away - and we'd hate to lose him - I don't think he'd be that far away, so I'd see no harm in the likes of Trevor, or Seanie Maguire, being in a squad at least, instead of saying 'they have to go away'."