Roy Keane: England move would help Maguire
Cork City goalkeepers Mark McNulty and Alan Smith used their day off on Wednesday to make up the numbers at Ireland's training camp in Fota Island.
There was some local disappointment that Sean Maguire missed out on the opportunity to show management what he can do. Instead, he remained in the City camp all week ahead of their key Premier Division meeting with Shamrock Rovers in front of what should be a sell-out crowd in Turner's Cross tonight.
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane said yesterday that Cork's star attacker needs to be patient with regard to his international ambitions.
Yet he also acknowledged that Ireland have problems in the striking department and hinted that a summer switch to England - with Preston expected to activate a €150,000 release clause - would boost the 23-year-old's prospects.
"We have looked at Sean, we've seen him live on a few occasions - the manager has - he's doing well and he has to keep doing well," said Keane.
"There is talk of him maybe getting a move and if that happens we'll probably get more opportunities to see him. But there are just a few players ahead of him at this moment in time but that's all pretty normal. There is nothing untoward.
"He needs to keep doing the business, keep putting the ball in the back of the net and keep knocking on the door and eventually, like the other lads here… you have to be patient.
"I know we have Shane Long injured but there are lads ahead of him, people like Jon Walters, James McClean can play through the middle, Daryl Murphy has never let us down, there are good options there for us.
"We see (defender and ex-Cork man) Kevin Long coming into the squad at 26. I'm not saying Maguire will have to wait that long but sometimes you have to be patient in this game."
Cork are determined to make maximum use of Maguire while they have him. At this stage, it appears to be a question of when they lose their main asset, not if they do. Preston are very keen on him and it's believed that advanced discussions have already taken place, with the main detail to be thrashed out revolving around his point of departure.
Keeping him for a portion of July would allow Maguire to contribute to Cork's first Europa League encounter in addition to helping their league efforts.
They hold a 15-point lead over Dundalk but face a stiff test against a Shamrock Rovers side that have improved considerably in the past month.
Hoops boss Stephen Bradley has riled the natives by suggesting that the Leesiders are nowhere near as impressive as an on-song Dundalk. In March, Bradley's charges pushed Cork in Tallaght before a late Maguire penalty gave John Caulfield's men all three points.
And, while Rovers' season is often framed in the context of their youth policy, Caulfield points out that they went on a recruitment drive over the winter.
"They invested massively in the off-season," he said. "They brought in some quality players: (Ronan) Finn, (Ryan) Connolly, (Roberto) Lopes, (David) McAllister and (Graham) Burke."
Elsewhere tonight, Dundalk are seeking to somehow keep up the pressure by taking full points from their trip to Inchicore to face relegation-threatened St Patrick's Athletic. The Lilywhites need to regain momentum after their scoreless draw against Derry in midweek; they welcome Cork to Oriel Park next Friday.
"We're only looking at it one game at a time, you can't afford to be getting bogged down by the points gap," said midfielder Jamie McGrath. "It's a long season and we're only halfway through. Anything could happen and we're just trying to get as many points on the board as we can and see where we are.
"We have to play Cork twice which is important so it's a case of never say never, but you have to be realistic as well."
McGrath joined Dundalk from the Saints over the winter and knows the hosts' capabilities.
"They have quality throughout and the table is not doing them justice," stressed the 20-year-old, who is now concentrated on football after finishing the final exam in a business and management degree in Maynooth.