Friday 24 May 2019

'I wasn’t in a good place' - Sean Maguire opens up on why he nearly walked away from football

Sean Maguire (left) with Preston team-mate Daryl Horgan (right).
Sean Maguire (left) with Preston team-mate Daryl Horgan (right).
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Sean Maguire has revealed he came close to walking away from football in late 2015, after a series of setbacks made him consider an alternative career.

Maguire looks set to win his second senior Ireland cap in next Friday’s international against Turkey in Antalya, with his stunning goal-scoring form propelling Preston’s promotion push as they eye a place in the Championship play-offs, yet this story of success does not fall into the overnight class. Far from it.

At the age of 23, Maguire has belatedly become a star after his glut of fine goals for Preston in the last month, yet it wasn’t always like this for a young man struggling to comprehend how his misery of three years ago has been so completely transformed.

Now the Luton-born striker has reflected on a rise to the top that was less than glorious as he suffered knock-backs with rejection at West Ham and Dundalk that pushed him into considering an alternative career.

"I lost a bit of faith in whether I would ever make it and you do start to think about doing something else with your life," Maguire said.

"I have had a lot of knock backs and not just in my first crack in English football with West Ham. After a while, you start to doubt yourself and I reached that point during 2015.

"I came to England when I was a kid at 17 and I was in the under-23 set up at West Ham. I had the experience of being in England and seeing what its was like. It’s not easy, you have a lot of competition to get into a team, even at the junior level.

"I went to Accrington on loan and felt I did okay there, but I was only 20 and was still learning and it is tough to look good in a team playing in the bottom half of League Two.

"Then I was at Dundalk with a team that got themselves in the Europa League and I didn’t get a look in at all, which was very tough for me to take.

"I wasn’t in a good place at that time. I just felt I didn’t want to play football any more, that maybe I wouldn’t make it. I lost a bit of interest in football, if I’m being honest.

"Then my Dad got a call from John Caulfield at Cork City and he said to me I should give it one last go and from that moment, I’ve never looked back.

"I owe a lot to Cork City and John Caulfield so much because everything that is happening to me now is basically down to the chance they gave me.

"If someone said to me two and a half years ago that I would be where I am now, I’d have said they were mad.

"To be an Ireland international, playing for a team chasing promotion to the English Premier League and to be the one scoring the goals to help them get there…this really is amazing.

"You cannot write the script I have had over the last few weeks and long may it continue."

Maguire’s sensational form at Cork - scoring 29 goals in the 2016 season - inevitably attracted the attentions of English clubs and with an Irish pulse beating at Preston thanks to the presence of compatriots Greg Cunningham, Daryl Horgan and Adam Browne, the offer to join the Lancashire club was too good to turn down.

His second coming in English football has been a triumph, with his promising start at Preston bolstered by an explosion in form since his return from a serious hamstring injury in November that ruled him out of action for four months.

After tireless work in the gym to ensure he returned to action fitter and stronger than ever, Maguire has filled the hole left by departed striker Jordan Hugill at Preston as he has fired the goals that have kept Alex Neil’s side in the mix for promotion to the Premier League.

"Just getting back out on the pitch after so long out was a relief," reflects Maguire.

"You miss being part of the dressing room, being around on match days and I was just excited to be back, but to score two goals was amazing.

"Then to follow it up with goals in my next two games and getting a call-up to the Ireland squad again, it has been an amazing few weeks for me.

"The confidence you get when you score a few goals is vital when you come back from an injury. You question whether you can be the same player, you need to build yourself back up again, but I feel as good as I was before the injury now and maybe even a bit better, so that is a great place to be."

Maguire’s inclusion in the Ireland squad backs up his senior debut against Moldova back in October and he could emerge as a key man in Martin O’Neill’s revamped side if his current form can be maintained.

Shane Long’s miserable run in front of goal means Ireland desperately need a new No.9 to provide a cutting edge and on current form, Maguire should start against Turkey despite his lack of international experience.

"Shane Long is another player I looked up to from a young age and he can still do a great job for Ireland," adds Maguire.

"He took the same route as me into English football from Cork City. Went to Reading, got goals and worked his way into the Premier League and that is the dream we all follow as kids.

"To be in the same Ireland squad as Shane now is a big thrill for me and I would love to get my second cap against Turkey next week. If I could start an Ireland game at some point in the near future that would be amazing, but nothing feels impossible for me now."

Maguire is living proof that the dream of hitting the big-time in English football is not dead for Ireland’s finest talents.

Here’s hoping this story is only just beginning.

Seanie Maguire was celebrating the reveal of his Preston team-mate Daryl Horgan’s FIFA Ultimate Team Green item, as part of this year’s FIFA 18 FUT Birthday celebrations. Fans who complete themed weekly objectives will unlock these special green items, and unwrap an exclusive St Patrick’s Day kit, available in FIFA Ultimate Team now until Friday 23rd March!

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