How the Irish fare: Winning start for Sean Maguire at Preston

New surroundings, same narrative. Sean Maguire has got used to that winning feeling this year; his goals ensuring Cork City have turned this season’s Airtricity League Premier Division title race into a procession.

How the Irish fare: Winning start for Sean Maguire at Preston

It’s highly unlikely Preston will scorch the turf in similar fashion in this season’s Championship, but they got their campaign off to the perfect start on Saturday, beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Deepdale.

Maguire had been replaced by the time Preston scored the winner — a penalty from Daniel Johnston after 79 minutes — but manager Alex Neil was thrilled with the Kilkenny man’s debut effort.

“I thought Sean led the line for us really well, softened the centre-backs, and Jordan (Hugill) did the rest when he came on.”

Going from the Airtricity League Premier Division to the Championship represents a significant step up, but Neil had no hesitation about throwing Maguire in at the deep end.

“Seanie was 17 games into his season at Cork and he is sharp as a tack at the moment, so it was a pretty simple decision [to start him].”

For his part, Maguire was delighted to start the latest chapter in his career on a positive note.

“Well-deserved win and great start to the season. Delighted to make my debut as well,” he tweeted.

Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich began their campaign with a 1-0 win over Birmingham, a result that brought relief rather than joy to the former Ireland boss.

It seems preposterous to suggest a manager could be under pressure one game into the season, but that would have been the case had Ipswich failed to lift three points on Saturday.

The Tractor Boys struggled last season and a 6-1 friendly defeat to Charlton Athletic in their last pre-season friendly piled the pressure on McCarthy ahead of Birmingham’s visit. Things didn’t go entirely smoothly on Saturday, either, as Andre Dozzell was forced off in the first half with a suspected cruciate ligament injury.

McCarthy said: “I’ve had great support and been humbled by the reception walking out onto the pitch today, but I’m not under any illusions that, had we lost, I would have been walking off to a cacophony of boos and a fair bit of abuse. That probably would have been deserved on the back end of last season, but last season has gone.

“I said on Friday ‘please come and support the team and get behind them’. We wanted a good result, to play well and to entertain the crowd. I think we’ve done that.”

Referring to the Charlton mauling, McCarthy said: “We were just crap last week, we were awful. We didn’t compete and got a right royal doing.

“How have we gone from last weekend’s performance to this one? We must have a good manager, hey? If it was anyone else, people would say ‘he’s done a great job rallying the troops’, so I’m going to take a bit of credit! I played a different system, which they weren’t expecting us to play, so I’m going to pat myself on the back, even if no-one else will.”

It was a quiet opening weekend for the Irish in League One, with the only newsline of note coming at Fratton Park, where Keith Keane was sent off for a professional foul after 21 minutes in Rochdale’s 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth.

In League Two, James Collins enjoyed a dream opening, netting a hat-trick as Luton destroyed Yeovil 8-2. Alan McCormack also got in on the act with a 25-yard screamer.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox