Preston North End striker Sean Maguire’s exclusive column: clash of the Irish would be one to savour

Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire scores his side's second goal of the game during the International Friendly against New Zealand
Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire scores his side's second goal of the game during the International Friendly against New Zealand

It will be like a World Cup final if my country the Republic of Ireland meet Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a play-off match to decide who goes through to next summer’s European Championship finals.

The mouthwatering prospect came about after Wednesday’s draw with Denmark, but we can’t get too ahead of ourselves because both countries have tough matches in the play-off semi-finals to overcome before that all-Ireland encounter will materialise.

We have been drawn away to Slovakia next March, while our neighbours travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Our game against Slovakia is going to be difficult, they have a number of world class players.

But we fancy ourselves to win and hopefully Northern Ireland can do the same against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I wasn’t even one-year-old the last time the two Irelands met in a competive fixture – that was a 1-1 draw in a Euro 1996 qualifier at the old Lansdowne Road in March 1995.

It is mouthwatering to potentially have a game against the Northern Irish, but there’s a lot water to go under the bridge before that can happen.

I am sure our gaffer Mick McCarthy will be plotting a way over the next few months to beat Slovakia.

The fact that we are in the play-offs is a disappointment in itself especially after our performance against Denmark in midweek.

A win over the Danes at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, would have been enough for us to finish above them in Group D to qualify automatically by virtue of having a superior head-to-head record. Unfortunately, we could only draw 1-1 and that meant Denmark went through with group winners Switzerland.

We should have beaten Denmark – we deserved to win the game.

It was the best we have played during the whole campaign. From start to finish, we were on the front foot.

I think we had something like 16 efforts on goal to their three.

Our keeper Darren Randolph did not have too many shots to save and the only one they really had was when Pierre-Emile Højbjerg scored in the 76th minute to give them the lead.

I was disappointed to be on the bench, but I had the mindset to be ready to go and make an impact.

When the gaffer put me on with nine minutes to go, I felt I did that and we managed to equalise through David McGoldrick.

Once we got that goal, I thought it was going to be one of those famous Irish performances.

We could have nicked it at the end, but it wasn’t to be.

I think we can take the positives and our performance will give us a lot of belief for our game against Slovakia.

Despite the disappointment of failing to qualify, the international break was still a fruitful one for me as it saw me notch my first international goal.

I must admit, the fact that I hadn’t scored for my country had been playing on my mind so it was a great relief to fire one into the top corner in our 3-1 friendly win over New Zealand last Thursday.

I am not known for scoring from outside the area but I need to shoot more often from distance.

In the first half I had a couple of half-chances which I failed to make the most of and they are kind of my bread-and-butter situations.

But for my goal things opened up for me and I just thought I would whip it and thankfully it has gone in the back of the net.

It was a worry for me that I had not scored. You see the caps build up but nothing in the ‘goals’ tally.

Hopefully, this has got me up and running and I can quickly score my second, third and fourth goals and help us qualify for the Euros.

I actually feel quite refreshed after the international break and so I am looking forward to getting back in action for Preston.

It’s always nice coming back here walking back in the dressing room and feeling that confidence that we all have after the great start we have had to the season.

Team morale is sky high at the moment and we have got to try to keep this good run of form we are on going.

Our game away to Derby County this weekend is really important.

I know they are not doing so well at the moment but they have got some very dangerous players who can really hurt teams so we have to be wary of that.

But I don’t think there is any team in this division who fancies playing us at the minute.