Adam Lord’s PNE Press View

PNE fans want Aiden McGeady ' pictured in action for the Republic of Ireland against Uruguay ' back
PNE fans want Aiden McGeady ' pictured in action for the Republic of Ireland against Uruguay ' back

Irish eyes are smiling, the luck of the Irish…I could go on.

Name an Irish pun or saying and you’ve probably seen it in the pages of this newspaper in recent months.

In becoming Preston North End’s first summer signing last weekend Sean Maguire became the latest recruit from the Emerald Isle.

There is certainly talent in the League of Ireland, Alan Browne the first to demonstrate that at Deepdale.

Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan had far more experience than Browne when they arrived from Dundalk in January.

The pair’s Europa League performances meant they were in demand and they’ve picked up from where they left off across the water with the Lilywhites and more recently, Martin O’Neill’s national side.

Maguire has made his case for a senior call-up heard with a scintillating 18 months in front of goal, and the former West Ham United youngster has decided now is the time to try his luck in England for a second time.

With his team-mate, left-back Kevin O’Connor, also set to make the move to Lancashire, the Irish takeover is showing no sign of retreating.

Factor in Greg Cunningham, Eoin Doyle – although he looks set for a move away – and the stunning loan spell from Aiden McGeady and it really is ‘County Preston’.

What the League of 
Ireland seemingly gives PNE is more bang for their buck.

Players may be largely untried in England but the performances of Boyle and Horgan in Europe pointed to the fact they’d be more than capable of adapting to life in the second tier.

Maguire quite simply knows where the back of the net is.

His goals – 19 in 20 this season to back up a breakthrough 2016 – have shot him into the wider consciousness and mean Cork sit 18 points clear at the top of the table.

Despite his fine form, the former Accrington loanee remains a gamble, as those before him did.

He is the latest in a long line of calculated risks.

Moving away from the ever-expanding Irish contingent, Tom Barkhuizen fits in that bracket.

Low transfer fees and wages mean the rewards can be high, as they look like they will be with the former Morecambe man.

Others down the line might not come off but given the relatively modest outlay, little will be seen to have been lost.

This summer presents an interesting dilemma for Deepdale chiefs.

North End have moved themselves into an impressive position during Simon Grayson’s just-over four years in charge, rising from the lower reaches of League One to the fringes of the Championship play-offs.

The jump they are about to try and make is the biggest though, the leap from 11th to the top six and a shot at the Premier League proving a bridge too far in the closing weeks of last season.

A lot has been achieved on polishing rough diamonds – see above – but is now the time for North End to push the boat out in the transfer market?

There is no doubt they will bring in proven experience and not exclusively rely on players in the ilk of Maguire and O’Connor, as good as they may turn out to be.

But at least some of the new faces need to have been there and done that in the Championship.

Player of the year McGeady’s return is the obvious number one priority, although expect that to run and run, as it did on deadline day last August.

Tom Clarke’s injury leaves big boots to fill at the back.

It is no coincidence that without their skipper North End fell away badly in the closing weeks of the campaign, having promised so much for so long.

A dependable central defender was probably already on the shopping list but is now an absolute must too.

Most supporters, as well as on McGeady, will have their eyes firmly fixed and fingers firmly crossed on exciting recruits up top.

Maguire is a start but with Jermaine Beckford and Simon Makienok having left the club and Doyle seemingly on the way out, there’s plenty of room for attacking reinforcements.

Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson made impressive breakthroughs last term and Barkhuizen looks like he will chip in with his fair share. Don’t rule out Stevie May either on his return from injury.

But another frontline centre-forward, established in the second tier and maybe higher, would keep everyone on their toes.

Writing about David Healy and his success as manager of Linfield earlier in the week served as a reminder that Northern Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer remains Preston’s record signing, £1.5m paid for his services nearly 17 years ago.

Could that be broken this summer for the right man?

No one is asking the 
Deepdale hierarchy to spend recklessly, or to try and match some of the staggering fees being spent elsewhere.

But surely speculating that little bit more will help bridge the gap to the coveted play-off places in a league that is only getting tougher all the time.