McGrath sees bright future for Maguire

In Ireland’s time of need, Paul McGrath firmly believes Seán Maguire can arrest the worrying firepower deficit.

McGrath sees bright future for Maguire

Martin O’Neill was forced to rely on the likes of James McClean and Shane Duffy to provide the goals in the World Cup qualification campaign as Robbie Keane’s retirement from the international circuit began to bite.

Maguire had bagged 20 league goals for Cork City by July but needed to engineer a move to Preston North End for his maiden cap to be granted against Moldova three months later.

McGrath got to see for himself the skillset of Maguire on his last outing before a hamstring injury halted his progress last month and was soon convinced of his international pedigree.

With O’Neill planning for the Uefa Nations League next autumn and the Euro 2020 qualifiers from March 2019, the Ireland legend wants to see Kilkenny man Maguire centrally involved.

“I’m a big fan of Sean and think he can play a major part for us in the next campaign,” explained McGrath. “Watching him against Villa last month, he actually should have got a penalty and caused my old club all sorts of problems. I didn’t realise that he’d only come to England from Cork in the summer.

“With the way he can control the ball, I think Sean is ready to go straight into the Ireland team.”

McGrath doesn’t blame Ireland’s World Cup play-off capitulation to Denmark on O’Neill or his players. Rather the target of his ire is the FAI.

Over 12 years, the centre-back gave sterling service to his country as a mainstay of Jack Charlton’s golden generation that reached three major tournaments out of four.

The current batch could have matched that record by completing a second successive qualification only to fall short in spectacular fashion six weeks ago.

As an FAI ambassador in his time, McGrath would like to paint a rosy picture of the outlook for Irish football but he is unconvinced at those presiding over the game here, insisting the priorities don’t always chime with those of football folk. That stance was hardened during his visit to a Dublin club last week.

McKelvey Celtic had won a competition held by Manchester United and DHL, allowing a nursery have access to one of their club legends for a training game.

United sent along one of their most famous Irish players, one who lifted two FA Cups, and while the joy of the youngsters heartened him, their environment didn’t.

“The people here at McKelvey have an all-weather pitch they’re happy with but the facilities are much better in Manchester,” said the 58-year-old.

“The FAI need to start investing properly. If the clubs working with players don’t get what they need to bring them to the next level, then the senior team will be stuck where they are for a while.

“We had a team capable of reaching the World Cup but it isn’t just about what happens on the pitch. The FAI have to take some responsibility.

“The organisation really needs a shake-up.”

Changing the line-up within the hierarchy is unlikely given John Delaney has held the chief executive’s position for 12 years and is contracted until 2020. But McGrath sees one alternative staring Irish football directly in the face.

“Niall Quinn would be my choice as the next FAI chief executive because he’d soon get Irish football back where it belongs,” asserted 87-times capped McGrath.

After spending six years in executive roles at Sunderland, former Ireland striker Quinn moved into punditry with Sky Sports.

His decision to leave that job in August means the talented businessman is no longer involved directly in the game, a departure McGrath wants reversed.

“Niall would make a tremendous leader. He knows the ins and outs of the game, he’s done it before at Sunderland.”

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