Maguire relishing Aviva return after 'mad' change of fortune
Sean Maguire is that rare breed - a talented Kilkenny sportsman who, by his own admission, was 'useless' at hurling and knew it.
To those outside the Noreside county, it may come as some surprise. Sure, don't we all believe that every kid from Kilkenny is smacking a sliotar miles down the pitch almost as soon as he or she can walk?
But Maguire had no illusions or dreams about joining Brian Cody's rampaging Cats on the trail of All-Ireland glory.
Instead, the dream fuelling his sporting career was wearing the green shirt for the Republic of Ireland.
"I was no good at hurling. I figured that out when I was 12 or 13, that I was useless at it. I think I speak on behalf of everyone that plays football, from the age of four or five, it was my dream to play for my country. I said before, I'm one step closer to achieving goal," said Maguire.
Yesterday, he edged towards making that ambition a reality by training with Martin O'Neill's squad at FAI HQ in Dublin.
The 23-year-old, who scored the winning goal for Cork City just over a year ago in the FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, will return to the famed sporting venue for Friday night's vital World Cup clash against Moldova.
Most likely, it will be a seat on the bench. Whether that's as a listed substitute for the match, or just being part of the occasion with no chance of getting on the pitch, remains to be seen.
Martin O'Neill is highly unlikely to give the former Cork City striker a starting place in the team, but no matter.
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Maguire appreciates the involvement with the senior squad and views it as a stepping stone to hopefully greater achievements.
"If the gaffer gives me the opportunity, I'll rise to the challenge," he said.
"I'm just really looking forward to the experience of being in the same dressing room with players of the calibre that are in the senior team, the sort of players that I looked up to, for example, Shane Long.
"I've looked up to him in every aspect of his game. I'll be talking to him hopefully during the week and get to know him and the boys a bit better."
Maguire won't be shy. He looks forward to mixing with the squad members, and has already picked out the song he has to sing in front of the players for the customary 'induction ceremony'.
"I just need to be fully focused in training, and in and around the camp, to be lively and bubbly around the boys. Don't be shy at all. Just be myself, I suppose," he said.
And the song? It will be the same one he performed for the Preston players - 'Let Me Love You' by Mario.
From the perspective of making the transition from Airtricity League to Championship football, it's a case of 'so far, so good' for Maguire, who was signed from Cork City for a reported £130,000 (€147,000). He has made nine appearances, two of them as a substitute, and scored two goals.
The diminutive striker's thirst for goals remains undiminished, but he has had to deal with mainly playing a role on the flanks at the behest of manager Alex Neill.
"I've had a decent start there. I've been playing out on the wing and stuff so the chances are harder to come by from playing up front with Cork City, but I'm enjoying it and hopefully I can kick on from there.
"I'm loving it out there, it's a bit different, but the gaffer will decide to give me the chance out on the wing or up front.
"Anywhere I play on the pitch, I know I will give 110 per cent and hopefully do the job," said Maguire.
It helps that Preston have a big Irish contingent. Daryl Horgan, a squad member for the World Cup games, plus Greg Cunningham, Alan Browne, Andy Boyle, and Kevin O'Connor are at Deepdale with Maguire.
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Horgan and Boyle played for Dundalk against Maguire and Cork City in last year's FAI Cup final. Before that, all three were clubmates at Dundalk, and the Aviva Stadium holds special memories, particularly of Maguire's Cup winning goal. "I've got good memories going back to the Aviva, some mixed emotions actually.
"The year previously I wasn't even on the bench for Dundalk and the year later I scored the winner.
"Now, a year on, I'm on the verge of nearly playing for my country.
"It's mad how football turns around. I'll be looking forward to the game (Moldova) whether I'm involved or not," said Maguire.
He will also take a keen interest in Cork City's final push to usurp Dundalk as the league champions, a challenge that Maguire did so much to assist before he left for England in July.
"I've no doubts now they can go and get it. They have Bohs away in their next league game, and hopefully they can go and do the double against Shamrock Rovers or Dundalk."