Play-off spot would be icing on cake for Boyle

Andy Boyle has impressed on his three Preston North End starts

Andy Boyle has impressed on his three Preston North End starts

Andy Boyle wants to end his rollercoaster ride by reaching the Championship play-offs with Preston North End.

The central defender was handed a Republic of Ireland debut on Tuesday night as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat to Iceland in Dublin.

It completed an incredible 12 months for the 24-year-old who made it three straight League of Ireland titles with Dundalk and played in the Champions League and Europa League before making the move to Deepdale.

Now attention turns back to the day-to-day and trying to help the Lilywhites bridge the five-point gap to the top six, starting at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

“It’s been a whirlwind year,” said Boyle.

“From last March when the season started onwards if you would have said the stuff that’s happened would happen, then I’d have thought you were mad at the time.

“You’ve just got to keep taking it in your stride and the focus now is on a huge month for the club.

“We’ve got a chance of pushing on and have a few fixtures that we’re looking to win and we’ll see where that takes us.

“Personally and for the club we’re looking to finish off what’s been a good season so far.

“But we’re taking one game at a time.

“It is a cliché but it’s the way we’ve got to look at it.”

His international 
debut saw Boyle enter the field at the same time as team-mate Daryl Horgan just after the hour mark, the pair having taken the same journey from making League of Ireland history to moving to England and now being handed full Ireland caps.

“It’s a lovely feeling,” said Boyle.

“It’s great to be involved first and foremost and it’s great to get a first cap.

“It’s probably an old cliché but it’s every boy’s dream to play for their country.

“To come on the other night was a great occasion for myself and my family.

“It wasn’t the best of games and the result didn’t go our way but it’s a night that myself and Daryl 
will always remember.

“To make your debut for your country is a great honour.”

Both received a warm reception from the near 40,000 crowd, most likely down to their roots, having plied their trade in domestic football in Ireland before moving across the water in January.

“It seemed to go down well enough,” said Boyle with a smile.

“I think it’s because we’d come through the League of Ireland system and the fans of the league were all happy for us to come on and make our first senior international appearance.

“They want to see 
players coming out of the league and doing well.

“What Dundalk did in Europe raised the 
profile of the league a bit and they’re clearly happy they’ve got a couple more internationals.”

As for the game itself, Hordur Magnusson scored the only goal as Martin O’Neill’s side saw their 15-game unbeaten run at the Aviva Stadium come to an end.

North End winger Aiden McGeady also played the majority of the game as he picked up his 88th cap.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” said North End central 
defender Boyle.

“I was told the night before that I was going to be involved at some stage.

“I was ready to go and was just looking forward to it.

“It wasn’t a classic but I just went out there and tried to do what I’m used to.

“I enjoyed it and I thought I did okay.

“It was just nice to be involved in the whole thing and hopefully it’s the first of many to come.”

The Irish trio returned to England on Wednesday and it is now back to reality ahead of Forest visiting Deepdale on Saturday in the first of two home games in four days.

Another struggling side Bristol City make the trip to Lancashire on Tuesday as PNE’s run-in begins against two sides who are battling towards the bottom of the table.

The onus may be on North End to win those games but with five points to make up and some big sides in and around the top six Boyle believes the pressure is off Simon Grayson’s side who have to overhaul Norwich, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday to extend their season 
beyond May 6.

“Looking at the schedule there are fixtures every couple of days it seems,” he said.

“The Championship is such a competitive league, there are big teams to play week in and week out and I’m really looking forward to it.

“You see the teams that are in and around the play-offs they’re big, big clubs with big financial pressure to try and get into the play-offs at least.

“As the gaffer’s said the pressure is off us a bit.

“We can go out and enjoy it for the next couple of weeks.

“Football is all about momentum and we can target the two home games.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve been really good at home and we’ve got to look to continue that.”

Boyle has impressed in his three appearances alongside Paul Huntington at the heart of the 
defence.

The Irishman believes the experience of PNE’s back line, skipper Tom Clarke having shifted to right-back due to injuries, has been key in helping him hit the ground running since making his debut in the draw at Derby.

He knows the hard work is only just beginning though, with Alex Baptiste and Marnick Vermijl 
available again after injury, meaning there is plenty of competition for places at the back.

“Hunts has been great to play beside,” said Boyle.

“The more games we play the better we’ll get together.

“He’s been a big help and Clarkey playing right beside me is a big help as well.

“They’re two lads with huge experience in the Championship and they’ll only help.

“The league is quite hectic and frantic at times.

“It’s very competitive and there are no easy games in the league.

“Every week you’ve got to be on it to pick up points.

“Hopefully I can stay in the team and keep my form.”