Irish eyes are smiling at PNE

Sean Maguire in action for the Republic of Ireland
Sean Maguire in action for the Republic of Ireland
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The World Cup dream is alive for Preston North End’s Irish contingent.

Sean Maguire got closer than the rest to the action as the Republic of Ireland beat Wales 1-0 thanks to a James McClean goal to book their place in next month’s

play-offs.

The PNE front man was an unused substitute at the Cardiff City Stadium for the Group D clash which was

effectively a shoot-out for second place.

Maguire’s team-mate Daryl Horgan missed out on the matchday squad.

Greg Cunningham

Greg Cunningham

Preston’s other Irish players – Greg Cunningham, Alan Browne and Andy Boyle – have all been capped at senior level.

In the play-offs, the Republic will be unseeded, as are their neighbours Northern Ireland.

Should they prevail over the two legs, what are the chances of PNE’s Irish lads being on the plane to Russia next summer?

Maguire seems well placed at the moment, having won his first cap in last Friday’s 2-0 win over Moldova.

His goals for Cork City saw a clamour for him to get his chance at international level.

But it was the summer move to Deepdale which saw the door open.

He made a provisional squad in September before going one better this time and making the cut.

A regular run in the North End side and of course goals at Championship level, will be what Martin O’Neill is looking for.

Horgan has been in and around the Irish squad for a year now, although his first cap only came in March.

The winger needs games at club level, chances few and far between so far this term.

Cunningham can count himself so unlucky in how things have gone for him in terms of playing for his country.

The last of his four caps came in 2013.

Having been overlooked for a long while, Cunningham made the squad for September’s games.

But within a few days of the squad being announced, he suffered the knee injury at Derby which has sidelined him since, and will do until Christmas.

So he does have time on his side to fully recover and get games under his belt.

Browne, who won his first Irish cap in June’s friendly against Mexico, has been in good form for PNE this season.

But the Irish squad is well stocked with midfielders at the moment.

The chances for Boyle look slim, his only game for PNE so far this season being against Accrington in the League Cup.