LIAM MACKEY: Andrews says O’Neill must strike while Maguire is hot

Keith Andrews has lavished praise on Sean Maguire, saying the in-form striker is exactly what Ireland are crying out for, as Martin O’Neill prepares to name his squad for next month’s games against Georgia and Serbia.

Former international Andrews, who now divides his time between his coaching career and doing media work for Sky Sports and other outlets, believes Maguire has been so exceptional for Cork City this season that, even though the player has yet to play competitively for his new club Preston, he should be called up to the Irish squad with a view to playing a part in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

“At times there has been too much hype about certain players and too much of a clamour for certain players to be in Ireland squads that I would not have agreed with,” Andrews said.

“But with this player, I think he is on a different level and I think he has got to be given the opportunity now while he is in this vein of form.”

With Maguire having scored a fine solo goal on his debut for Preston in a friendly against Burnley last week, Andrews said he would now fully expect him to start for his new club when they open their Championship campaign at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

But more than that, the Dubliner said that he would be “amazed” if Martin O’Neill declines not just to call Maguire up, but to throw him into the fray over the course of the games away to Georgia and at home to Serbia.

“We have seen Kevin Long playing the last game (against Austria) which I was very surprised about,” Andrews pointed out. “Martin O’Neill does not stick to the rule book. If he feels it, he will do it. And Sean Maguire is ideal for what we need. He is a clever player, he is an out and out finisher, he’s bang in form, full of confidence — it’s a no-brainer.”

To those who hold that the League of Ireland is not a sufficiently high-quality testing ground for the transition to international football, Andrews insisted that Maguire’s talent and form make the argument redundant in his case.

“I watched him at Bray Wanderers a few weeks ago and he was toying with them, he was on a different level to everyone else on the pitch,” he said. “So I am not judging it on the League Of Ireland, I am judging it on him, and that it was like he was playing in the playground. That’s how much he was on a different level to everyone else on the pitch. That’s why he will slot in seamlessly at Preston.

“Take the goals out of the equation, it’s his movement, his brightness, his brain. He is a very, very clever footballer. He cannot be more confident that he is right now so he has to be given the opportunity right now to get the best out of him. I think it’s a no-brainer, I really do.”

And if Ireland are to make the most of Maguire, Andrews suggested that O’Neill’s team would have to play to the striker’s strengths.

“If Ireland are under the cosh and we’re having to play a little bit more direct, that’s not particularly going to suit Seanie,” he said. “I think he needs to play off a Walters or a Murphy or that type. Or if Wes is in the team, and you’re going to build up through the thirds, then he’s ideal because he’ll make those clever movements down the side of centre-halves and drop into little pockets.

“I think he’s very different to what we have. I tried to liken him to someone we’ve had at our disposal in the last 10 or 15 years and I’m struggling to think of one.”

Keith Andrews was speaking at Sky Sports preview of the 2017/18 Premier League season. 159 live PL games will air on Sky Sports Premier League (Channel 402) this season including 3pm Saturday kick-offs exclusive to Sky Ireland customers.


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