Maguire determined to take his game to the next level with Ireland
Preston striker in confident mood as he enjoys a rich vein of form with his club
Sean Maguire: “I think that I’ve had a lot more lows than highs but my career is on the up.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Martin O’Neill says that comparisons with Robbie Keane are unhelpful as they only heap unwanted pressure onto Ireland’s two new forwards but Sean Maguire doesn’t shy away from the challenge of following in the Dubliner’s footsteps. “Just to be [mentioned] in the same bracket as Robbie Keane is an achievement in itself,” says the 23-year-old who has made a fairly spectacular return to the Preston first team over the last few weeks.
“Obviously there has not been that goalscorer since he has left. I just need to keep working hard and if that opportunity arises then I feel that I will take it.”
Few would doubt Maguire’s industry or application after the past year or two but there is, it seems, still some scepticism about his ability to make the same sort of impact at the very highest level. After some tough times at West Ham, Sligo Rovers and Dundalk, there must have been times when Maguire had doubts deep down himself – but not anymore.
Five goals in four games may have temporarily scuppered the player’s capacity for self-doubt but his confidence levels are clearly soaring. Anyway, if given the chance here in Antalya, then he is backing himself to prove a point.
“I think that I’ve had a lot more lows than highs but my career is on the up,” says Maguire who was sidelined for several months with a particularly bad hamstring injury.
“I’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster ride, I suppose. My West Ham days... being pretty much rejected there. I did quite well at Accrington but then back to Dundalk – everyone knows what happened at Dundalk. But I’ve come out the positive side of it and it’s all good now.
“I scored a lot of goals with Cork; I’ve scored a few goals at Preston and when the chance arises tomorrow night then I feel that I can step up to it.”
Maguire’s recent record certainly seems to entitle him to the opportunity. Shane Long effectively inherited Keane’s automatic starting spot in the team but has struggled to score anything like what might be expected. The Southampton player has long been valued for the wider contribution he makes to a team and its attack but there is no getting around the fact that goals are a major part of the striker’s gig and Long has scored just once since February of last year.
Scott Hogan is the other new contender and, after a slow start at Aston Villa, the 25-year-old had a bit of a run a few weeks back.
Since his strike against Burton on January 3rd, though, he has failed to find the target and hasn’t started the club’s most recent games. Maguire, in contrast, is flying after an injury lay-off he feels may actually have helped him at a time that the lack of a summer break last year might have eventually led to a wider breakdown.
His goal against Sunderland at the weekend maintained the remarkable run of recent form and Preston’s other one in a 2-0 win was scored by Callum Robinson, a former England youth international who has been in touch with the FAI in recent weeks about declaring for Ireland.
“I think Callum is very different to what we have here,” says Maguire. “Technically, he is one of the best players who I have played with. He can play on the left or the right and he’s said that this is the first time in his career that he has played as a number nine.
“He’s chipping in with a lot of goals [five so far this season] and it’s great for him to come out and say that he is able to play for Ireland.”
Maguire, one suspects however, might just feel that the vacancy Keane’s departure created will have been filled by the time his fellow 23-year-old arrives on the Irish scene.