Preston North End boss Alex Neil confident Republic of Ireland duty will help returning striker Sean Maguire

Preston boss Alex Neil hopes that Sean Maguire’s time away with the Republic of Ireland can help the striker’s search for peak fitness rather than hinder it.

Maguire got his first slice of action this season in PNE’s 4-0 win over Wigan, coming on as a 75th minute substitute.

Preston North End's Sean Maguire in action' against Wigan

Preston North End's Sean Maguire in action' against Wigan

He set up the fourth goal for Callum Robinson in the sixth minute of stoppage-time to cap a pleasing run-out.

Having been without him for the first two months of the campaign, North End have waved goodbye to Maguire for the international break.

The 24-year-old was last week named in the Republic squad for the UEFA Nations League double header against Denmark and Wales.

Neil said: “The Ireland staff and Martin O’Neill have been first-class with us.

“While Sean is with them, they are going to monitor him and look after him.

“He has done very limited stuff up to this point and had 20 minutes on Saturday.

“It is really important for us, for them and for Sean that they don’t fling him in at the deep end and give him far too much.

“He would definitely be at risk of breaking down if that was the case.

“I’m more than confident they won’t do that and we can look after him when he comes back here.

“I think him being away will aid and assist Sean in his process of coming back.”

Maguire damaged a tendon in his hamstring in PNE’s final pre-season friendly in July.

Neil was delighted to see the him back on the pitch and playing his part in the goal which capped off the win.

“We had Brandon Barker and Louis Moult on the bench but I thought it was crucial we gave Sean minutes,” said Neil.

“He has been a big loss for us, the fourth goal showed that with the low centre of gravity he has.

“He can shift the ball out of his feet, he can create goals and score goals.

“When you are missing lads like Sean, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop, it doesn’t make things very easy.”

Saturday’s win was PNE’s first in the league since the opening day of the campaign.

Tom Barkhuizen put them in front in the 17th minute, Robinson scoring early in the second half.

Paul Gallagher netted from the spot in the 85th minute after the impressive Lukas Nmecha had been fouled.

Robinson flicked home a Maguire cross in the sixth minute of stoppage-time to complete the scoring.

Wigan played from the 57th minute with 10 men after a red card for Darron Gibson, the midfielder dismissed for a lunge at Ben Pearson.

A yellow card earlier in the game for Pearson will rule him out of the visit to Hull, with it being his fifth of the season.