As he nears completion of his squad jigsaw for next season, Cork City manager John Caulfield readily acknowledges that a key piece is now in place with the retention of ace marksman Sean Maguire.
“You can have great full-backs and great centre-backs and great midfielders, and you need all those but, crucially, you have to have guys who put the ball in the back of the net,” he observes. “That’s the position that wins you games.”
And trophies – it was Maguire’s late winner, his 29th goal of the season, which saw City overcome Dundalk to lift the FAI Cup last month, enshrining the striker “in the history books for life”, as Caulfield puts it.
“He’s done phenomenally well for us,” the manager continues, “the leading scorer in the league, goals in Europe, the winner in the cup final as well as two against Rovers in the quarter-final and two against Pat’s in the semi-final. He has scored goals in all competitions.”
With Maguire having also ended the season as the PFAI Young Player of The Year, there was some speculation that the former West Ham man might be tempted back to England but Caulfield always thought otherwise.
“There was a lot of interest and a lot of speculation but, if I’m being honest, my gut feeling is that he was going to stay,” he says. “Could he have left? Yes. But I was expecting him to re-sign and I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t.
“From my own point of view, all I ever said to him was that when you move, I hope you can go to a club that’s playing European football, that can play in front of 30,000 in the cup final and will average 4,000 a week at home. And he’s still only 22: he has the rest of his career ahead of him and plenty of time to decide what he wants to do.”
Magure’s experience with Cork would also appear to be another example of how a top League of Ireland club can offer an ambitious and talented young player a more hospitable environment – if not necessarily as financially a rewarding one – in which to develop, than a club in England.
“I think for Seanie the West Ham experience showed him that, for all the bells and whistles when he went at 16, he got a real opportunity to kick-start his career again when he came back,” says Caulfield. “I think he knows he’s on the right road now. He’s in a good place and probably realises that if he can reproduce next season what he did this year, the game’s going to open up for him. And that’s what we would hope would happen for him.”
In welcoming his new contract yesterday, Maguire certainly sounded like a happy man. “The group of players and staff here are the best I have been involved with,” he said. “When you are in a team that is confident, surrounded by good players, it gives you confidence.
“If I start well, I am sure I can have another good season.”
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