Sean Maguire eyeing his first Ireland start as he insists he is ready to play at the highest level
Sean Maguire is dreaming of a first Republic of Ireland start and promotion to the Premier League as his career continues to soar.
A little more than a year ago, the striker, who had a spell at West Ham as a teenager, was struggling to get a game at Dundalk in Ireland's SSE Airtricity League.
But having been rescued by Cork City, for whom he scored 20 goals last season, he was picked up by Championship Preston in July and capped for the first time at senior level for his country as a substitute less than three months later.
Maguire, who has scored seven times in his last seven appearances for his club, is hoping to add to that by lining up for Ireland against Turkey in Antalya on Friday evening, and he admits he can scarcely believe how swiftly his fortunes have changed.
The 23-year-old said: "I've come a long way from this time last year. I think it was six games into the season and I'd scored six goals, but to look a year after and here in the international set-up and scoring a few goals for Preston...
"2017 was a great year, but I feel 2018 is going to be even better.
"I believe I could do a job for Ireland if I get a chance and it would be great to start an international at some point in the near future."
Maguire believes out-of-form Southampton striker Shane Long is still Ireland's first choice forward, but he suggests he is ready to take his opportunity if it comes his way.
"Shane Long is another player I looked up to from a young age and he can still do a great job for Ireland," Maguire told Independent.ie last Sunday.
"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."
Starting for the Republic against Turkey would fulfil a childhood dream for Maguire, but whatever happens in Antalya this week he will return to Deepdale with his sights set very firmly on promotion.
Preston currently sit in eighth place in the Sky Bet Championship table, only two points adrift of the play-off places, and the frontman is confident they can make it into the mix.
He said: "There are two positions that five or six teams can grab with eight games to go. Eight games in the Championship is massive, anyone could grab those fifth and sixth places.
"I think the top four is pretty much settled with Wolves, Villa, Cardiff and Fulham, but those two places are up for grabs and it feels like we are getting better each game."