Wednesday 21 February 2018

Maguire eyes Cup final spot after patient start at Oriel

West Ham recruit Sean Maguire is aiming to help Dundalk into the FAI Cup final
West Ham recruit Sean Maguire is aiming to help Dundalk into the FAI Cup final

John Fallon

As Sean Maguire won't be around for next week's potential title celebrations, the Dundalk striker is hoping to play his part in sealing an FAI Cup final place tonight when they host Longford Town.

The Kilkenny man's status as a regular Ireland U-21 member means he'll be otherwise engaged next Friday when Stephen Kenny takes his side to Tallaght Stadium seeking the win to claim a second League of Ireland title on the bounce.

Maguire has featured four times for the Lilywhites since joining last month from West Ham United, his debut coming against tonight's opponents, and has been unlucky to find his route to a starting berth blocked by the in-form David McMillan and fellow recruit during the window, Ciaran Kilduff.

Kenny has pleaded with Maguire to remain patient, illustrating his belief in him by offering a new contract for next season, and tonight's semi-final may provide they springboard he's been craving to give flight to his spell at Oriel Park.

"There's a place in the Cup final in the Aviva Stadium at stake, so I'd love to be involved against Longford," said the player brought to Upton Park from Waterford United in 2013 by Sam Allardyce for €50,000.

"I knew coming to Dundalk that competition for places would be tough so I've nothing to complain about. The team are on a winning run, with David (McMillan) the main striker, and Ciaran doing well by coming on and scoring like he did against Limerick last week.

"I'm not the type to throw toys out of the pram and get annoyed at the manager. In fairness to Stephen, he's reassured me that I've done nothing wrong and my chance will come. I've done well in the three games, and scored against Sligo recently, so he knows what I can bring to the team.

"The fact I'm able to play behind the striker or wide too is a help but the players currently in the team deserve to be there."

Such has been the dominance of Dundalk on the domestic front this season that they can wrap up the championship with three games to spare against Shamrock Rovers.

A clash with the UEFA U-21 qualification schedule places Maguire in the unfortunate position by missing what could be a memorable night for the Louth club, yet he's philosophical about the scenario.


"Of course, it would have been nice to be in Tallaght but instead I'll be down in Waterford representing my country against Lithuania aiming to be involved for the third qualifier in a row," said Maguire, who along with Lee Desmond are the only home-based players in Noel King's squad. "There'll still be three leagues games, and hopefully an FAI Cup final, left to play in."

Off the pitch, Maguire's return to his homeland since parting company with the Hammers in the summer has been eased by the family atmosphere Kenny often cites a key ingredient to their success.

One of the club's owners, Andy Connolly, has literally made the newcomer one of his own while club captain Stephen O'Donnell ensures the strict dietary requirements imposed by conditioning coach Graham Byrne are adhered to. "There's a real sense of togetherness about Dundalk and I've been made to feel really welcome," he said. "Andy has put me up in a granny flat beside his house while a few of the players, John Mountney, Paddy Barrett and Stephen O'Donnell, live together nearby in a house and I'd have dinner there a lot of the time. It's great for camaraderie that most of the lads live locally."

By clinching a place in the Cup final for the first time since 2002, and this time at the national stadium, those players can etch themselves further into folklore with the natives.

Maguire, aware that talk of a first double since 1988 is within sight, is keen to concentrate on the immediate task at hand, insisting Longford will turn up with a different mindset to a league fixtures.

"They'll come looking to win, I'm certain of that," he asserted. "They've given Dundalk some tough tests in the two leagues games at Oriel this season, including my debut, but they'll be hungry for a place in the final as much as we are."

Dundalk v Longford Town, Live, RTÉ 2, 7.25pm

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