Sean Maguire’s tantalising taste of international football has left him ravenous for more.
With about 10 minutes remaining against Moldova on Friday night, the Preston striker came off the bench at the Aviva Stadium to make his senior Ireland debut to a huge ovation from the crowd, a good portion of whom had spent at least the preceding 10 minutes pleading loudly in song for Martin O’Neill to send their man into the fray.
With Ireland leading 2-0 and coasting to victory, Maguire’s might have been no more than a cameo but, under any circumstances, a first cap for your country is a moment never to be forgotten, and even more so when it comes on home soil, in a World Cup qualifier and at a ground where the Kilkenny man had, as they say, seen the two days, in two years, in two FAI Cup finals.
“When the crowd are singing your name, it’s hard to put into words what it meant to me,” he says, “(considering) where I’ve come from two years ago, being here with Dundalk and being on the bench. Then the last time I was here, I was scoring a winner for Cork City.
“But I could never have imagined that a year later I would be back making my international debut.”
Maguire says that while he was running on “pure adrenaline” after he crossed the white line, true to his striker’s instincts he remained “focused on trying to nick a goal. I score most of my goals in the box. Anytime someone gets on the ball, I’m looking to make that front post run or drift away to the back post.”
When, at one point a Moldovan defender got tight to him in the box and he felt “a nudge in the back”, he thought he might be “in with a shout for a penalty” but it wasn’t to be. No matter.
“It was great to get on for a few minutes,” he beams, “it was just an incredible feeling to finally get out there. Hopefully it’s the start of something big.”
What words did Martin O’Neill have for him as he took to the pitch?
“Just go and enjoy yourself, you’ve earned this cap. Just go do your thing. And that’s exactly what Shane Long told me as well when he has coming off the pitch.”
Things just keep getting better for Maguire, who has followed up another remarkable if truncated season for champions-elect Cork City by hitting the ground running on his move to Deepdale where he is has clearly taken to life in the Championship with Preston North End.
“Yeah, we’re a level-headed group,” he says. “We’re young and determined to do really well. The gaffer (Alex Neil) has us playing extremely good football. We played a few big teams and came away with positive results but we’ve a tough five games coming up now. I think we play our best football against the bigger teams. We’ll be looking to keep doing that in the next few weeks.”
Although being deployed in a right-sided role behind the main striker has restricted Maguire’s opportunities with Preston to replicate his prolific goal-scoring for Cork, the player is happy enough with his lot.
“I don’t really mind where the manager plays me because I know I’ll do a job,” he says. “As long as I’m playing, I can’t complain.
“Obviously, the international set-up is another step ahead of club football, but playing with Preston has helped me massively over the past couple of months, physically and mentally. It did stand to me on Friday night, even in those couple of minutes, getting a few touches.”
Maguire might be unlikely to start in Cardiff tonight but getting the nod to come off the bench against Moldova clearly won’t have done his chances of a reprise against Wales any harm.
And if that’s what transpires, he’ll be more than ready and willing to answer the call.
“I’ve got my competitive debut under my belt now,” he says. “I’ve got my first taste of it. And now I’m looking for more.”
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