That just last Sunday saw him crowned the League of Ireland Player of the Year for his pivotal contribution to Cork City’s 2017 title triumph is a timely reminder of how fast and how far Sean Maguire has come over the past 12 months, with not even the intervention of serious hamstring injury putting anything like a full stop to his gallop in the Championship with Preston.
“I couldn’t have imagined the start I’ve had since coming back from injury, scoring five goals in four games,” he says, after completing his second training session of the week with the Irish squad in Turkey.
“Five months ago I got that injury and people probably felt that my confidence was going to wear off but I knew I was going to come back stronger which I did. It’s not being arrogant or anything like that, it’s just having self-belief.
“I owe a lot to Cork City for that because I feel I’m a totally different player to what I was even this time last year. And even the year before when (John) Caulfield took a chance on me. With the team I was surrounded by at Cork City, we were doing quite well, and it seemed like every game I was going into I was just going to score.
“Before that, when I was at West Ham and Accrington, I didn’t really play as a No. 9, I kind of played as a No. 10. At Cork City I started playing as a No. 9 and I started scoring a lot of goals.
“Now, a couple of years later I’m in the international set-up and in a team which is fighting for promotion to the Premier League. With eight games to go and hoping to have played 13 games in total by the end of the season, I feel the best is yet to come.”
When he puts it like that, it seems so straightforward as to appear almost inevitable but, in reality, it has been Maguire’s ability to recover from adversity which has been the making of him as a professional footballer.
“Yes, massively, I’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster ride since, I suppose, my West Ham days, being pretty much rejected there,” he reflects.
“I did quite well at Accrington and then came back to Dundalk — everyone knows what happened at Dundalk. I think that I’ve had a lot more lows than highs but my career is on the up and I’m past serious injury. I know that I was only out for four months but it is a horrific injury. But I’ve come out the positive side of it and it’s all good now.”
It could get even better in Antalya tomorrow if Maguire, who made his international debut as a substitute against Moldova last October, can register his first goal for Ireland in the friendly against Turkey.
But even before he has hit the net in a green shirt, his prolific goal haul for Cork and promising return in his first season with Preston, have raised hopes he might represent the light at the end of the tunnel in the hunt for a successor to Robbie Keane.
Such a comparison would daunt most prospects but the 23-year-old prefers to see it as a source of inspiration.
“To be mentioned in the same bracket as Robbie Keane is an achievement in itself,” he says.
“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. 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.”
And there might yet be even more where he is coming from, with his 23-year-old Preston team-mate Callum Robinson having recently expressed a desire to declare for the Republic.
“I think Callum is very different to what we have here,” says Maguire. “Technically, he is one of the best players I have played with. He can play No. 9 and anywhere across the front three. He’s chipping in with a lot of goals and it’s great for him to come out and say he is able to play for Ireland. He’s a really top player.”
Well, it takes one to know one…
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