'He's still a long way away' - Martin O'Neill's Sean Maguire warning
Martin O'Neill has warned against placing too much pressure on the shoulders of Seán Maguire as the Preston striker gears up for the possibility of a first Irish start in Turkey.
The 23-year-old has scored five goals in four games since his return from a hamstring problem and is contention for a lengthy contribution in Antalya on Friday after O'Neill travelled with an experimental squad.
Maguire was with Cork City this time last year and, in an interview with the FAI's League of Ireland podcast, O'Neill has again repeated his view that he had reservations about the front man at that point.
He had watched him play for Cork and was unsure of his ability to make the step up.
Maguire has risen to the challenge since then, yet O'Neill has cautioned against expecting too much too soon at international level, although the retirements of Daryl Murphy and Wes Hoolahan have weakened his striking options. Shane Long and the uncapped Scott Hogan are the only other established front men that have travelled to Antalya.
"I saw Seáni play a couple of times for Cork and he didn't play well," said the Irish boss. "He's now showing he can score goals (at Championship level) and he's got a bit of something, which I've said to him before.
"But he's still a long way away, to change the fortunes at international level. It's putting a lot of undue pressure on young players at this minute. He's still got his club career to think about, and get going with that.
"You don't expect someone to step in and change our fortunes. Unfortunately for me, sometimes I have to expect players to do it.
"That's what we try to do at international level. You try and get players who play in the Championship and suddenly we are playing away from home against Serbia and we've got to do something and elevate our game."
Maguire was part of a 24-man group that landed in Turkey yesterday. They will be joined today by Bradford goalkeeper Colin Doyle who was in action for his club against Doncaster in League One last night. He's a strong contender to figure in Turkey due to absentees.
O'Neill has seldom dipped below Championship level during his Ireland tenure - Blackburn pair Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams are also involved this time - and the Derry native maintains his view that it would be hard to pick any domestic-based player on the strength of their performances at home.
"People have accused me of picking the player after they left," he said. "And that might be true. You always feel as if players going into the Championship, which is pretty strong, would be better than the Airtricity League at this minute."