IRISH FANS HAVE been keeping a particularly close eye on the fortunes of Preston North End since Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle joined their ranks.
The Championship club agreed to sign two of Dundalk’s best players back in December, and while centre-half Boyle is still waiting to make his debut, last year’s PFAI Player of the Year Horgan has hit the ground running.
But it’s another Irishman who has shone brightest for Simon Grayson’s side in recent weeks. Aiden McGeady scored two stunning goals in last weekend’s 4-2 win over Brentford, and the on-loan Everton man also has four assists in his last six appearances.
It’s an encouraging upturn in fortunes for the 30-year-old, who had lost his way with the Toffees over the past couple of years.
“He’s been playing well all season,” Kevin Kilbane, speaking at yesterday’s draw for the FAI Junior Cup quarter-finals, said of McGeady.
“I must have been to Deepdale a half a dozen times this season and whenever I’ve seen him, he’s having an influence on every game. He’s either creating chances or having shots at goal himself.
We know what Aiden is like, sometimes he will have spells where he’s not in games. But now he’s scoring goals which is maybe highlighting that fact, but all season he’s been excellent.”
McGeady is no longer first choice at international level, but Kilbane believes the return to form could see him feature next month when Ireland meet Wales in a massive World Cup qualifier on 24 March before they play a friendly against Iceland four days later.
“I think he can and it’s not being flippant saying that,” added the pundit. “He’s playing in the Championship so we know it will be a step up for him but he’s always had that ability.
“Whether it was a lack of confidence or there were certain issues around him that meant he wasn’t performing to his best (I don’t know). But we’ve all seen him at certain spells in his career when he influenced international games and he has still got that ability.
“We know that Martin (O’Neill) loves him, he’s very fond of him because he helped develop him as a youngster. So I think he will have an influence, he will have a say over the next few games we’ve got.”
McGeady’s clubmate Horgan has settled in well since joining and scored his first goal for the Lilywhites a week ago while also chipping in with an assist in Tuesday’s victory over Birmingham.
Having made the bench in November’s famous win away to Austria, the Galwegian mustn’t be too far away from an international debut. But McGeady is still ahead of him in the pecking order, according to Kilbane.
“I think he’s ahead of Horgan now with his experience and everything,” he added. “Daryl has to prove himself. He has to be on the bench and you would imagine he is going to get some sort of game time over the next two games.
Maybe not in the Wales game but certainly Iceland, which would be the perfect setting for him to get a game.
“But I still think Aiden is ahead and it’s up to Daryl to make that step up to the next level once he starts scoring goals and creating goals consistently over 15-20 games. He’s got to produce what he’s done in the last few weeks consistently and I think it will come for him.”
The last eight sides left in Europe’s largest amateur football competition were at the home of Irish football, the Aviva Stadium, yesterday with Aviva’s FAI Junior Cup ambassadors Kevin Kilbane and Brian Gartland for the quarter-final draw
- Killarney Celtic (Kerry) v Janesboro FC (Limerick)
- Evergreen FC (Kilkenny) v Kilmallock United (Limerick)
- Carrick United (Waterford) v Boyle Celtic (Sligo / Leitrim)
- Peake Villa (Tipperary) v Sheriff YC (Dublin)
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