World Cup dream on hold as Sean turns attentions back to PNE
Sean Maguire knows all eyes have to be back on the Championship after taking one step closer to the World Cup.
The Preston North End striker’s first senior Republic of Ireland call-up saw him make his debut late on against Moldova, before watching on from the bench as Martin O’Neill’s men beat Wales 1-0 to seal their play-off spot.
A two-legged tie against Switzerland, Italy, Denmark or Croatia is to come in November as the Irish look to book their place in Russia next summer.
But Maguire knows that despite the euphoria of Monday night in Cardiff, international hopes and dreams will have to slip to the back of his mind, starting with the trip to Fulham on Saturday.
“To be part of what happened on Monday is something you always dream of,” said the 23-year-old.
“The atmosphere was pretty intense. The national anthems were belted out and it was a pretty cagey first half.
“It was always going to be like that and one half-chance was going to separate the teams and luckily enough it was on our side and James McClean hit it unbelievably well.
“I would have loved to have got on and I could have for maybe 20 or 25 minutes if the scenario had been different and we were pushing for a goal but thankfully I wasn’t needed.
“To be on the pitch at the end in front of three or four thousand Irish fans was amazing and being in the Irish dressing room after a massive win like that it felt like we’d qualified.
“It’s only half the job done though. We’ve got two games to go to make the World Cup and hopefully by this time next month that will be a reality. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s a quick turnaround before the next international break.
“But I’ve got to concentrate on five games with Preston though and then I can think about the play-offs.”
Being part of the dramatic night at the Cardiff City Stadium came on the back of Maguire winning his first cap in Dublin against Moldova, replacing Shane Long for the final seven minutes of the 2-0 victory.
Having starred for Cork City in the League of Ireland before his move to Deepdale, the diminutive frontman was a popular change from O’Neill at the Aviva Stadium.
“To get on last Friday night was absolutely amazing,” said Maguire.
“I can’t put into words that atmosphere. The adrenaline was just pumping through my body and for the crowd to be singing my name before I even came on was amazing.
“Sitting on the bench looking at it was special.
“Then my heart starting pumping when Martin O’Neill gave me the nod, and to come on for a player I’ve idolised from a young age was near enough the perfect scenario.
“It’s been a crazy couple of months.
“Coming over here, making my debut for Preston, scoring my first goal for the club and to even get called up for the senior team was a dream come true.”
Maguire was one of four PNE players away on international duty.
Daryl Horgan was also in the Irish party but did not make the matchday squad for either game, while Stephy Mavididi impressed with a couple of goals for England’s Under-20s.
Maguire bumped into Chris Maxwell however, the pair on opposite benches in Cardiff, the goalkeeper also having been rewarded for his Preston form with a first senior international call-up.
“The Irish boys were giving me a bit of stick because I spoke to Maxi before the game,” he said.
“They said I shouldn’t have been talking to the enemy.
“I was texting him during the week and he congratulated me on my cap as well.
“It was quite good and there was Aiden McGeady having a chat with Maxi before the game as well.
“Chris is a bit outnumbered with the Irish lads in the dressing room and I’m sure he’ll be getting plenty of stick for the next couple of weeks.”
After some memorable international exploits, attentions turn firmly back to the Championship.
Alex Neil’s men are sixth in the table after an impressive start but the PNE boss has predicted his side will be in for their toughest test thus far at Craven Cottage.
North End, though, will be hoping for a third straight win on the road after victories at Birmingham and Hull.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting game for the neutral with the way the two teams play,” said Maguire, who returned to PNE training with a double session on Wednesday.
“Fulham like to play out from the back and we’re the same.
“The way the gaffer has us playing this year it’s very exciting for us and for the fans.
“It is two teams that are probably very similar in ways but against the bigger teams away from home we’ve probably been at our best.
“We’re hoping that’s the case again this weekend.
“We’ve won two away on the bounce and will be looking to make it three.
“Even before, against Leeds and Middlesbrough, they were some of our best performances of the season even though we only came away with a point.
“This weekend people won’t be expecting us to take much from the game but we’ll be looking to do what we did at Birmingham and Hull and that’s take three points.”
Maguire is desperate to add to his two goals in PNE colours but acknowledges that there is little to grumble about after the Lilywhites’ encouraging opening to the campaign.
“I would like to have scored a few more goals in addition to the two,” he said.
“Personally I think I’m doing well though and the team’s performing really well.
“We’re picking up points, we’re sixth in the table and that’s where we want to be, there or thereabouts, and these are the games we need to go into looking to take maximum points from.”