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'It’s not an easy step up' - Ireland boss suggests Maguire has work to do after first call-up

The 23-year-old striker was named in Martin O’Neill’s provisional squad this afternoon.

Maguire during his hugely-successful spell at Cork City.
Maguire during his hugely-successful spell at Cork City.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

IT’S BEEN AWHILE coming, but Sean Maguire’s name was among the 39-strong list of players when the latest Ireland squad was released at lunchtime today.

The League of Ireland’s finest goalscorer over the past two seasons earned his debut call-up ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying double-header against Georgia and Serbia — although the provisional panel will be trimmed in the coming weeks.

Martin O’Neill has regularly fielded questions about Preston North End’s summer signing in recent times and while the Ireland boss spoke highly of Maguire in the past, he admitted that there were several players ahead of him in the pecking order.

During his press conference at SSE Airtricity’s headquarters in Dublin today, O’Neill said he is eager to bring the Kilkenny native into the group but suggested that it could be some time before he receives a first senior cap.

“Because I’ve seen a bit more of him for a start,” he replied, when asked about the decision to call up Maguire now. “I think that’s the most important thing.

“When I say he gets a call-up, he’s on a very large list of people. In the way that I’ve dealt with a lot of young players if they make it, and there’s no guarantee of that, they can get themselves into the group and feel a bit more comfortable with it.

Eventually when they do get a chance, if they do, then they’re not nervous as they’ve been around the group a little while, so they can take that chance. It will give them the best opportunity of doing well when they finally make their debut.”

Cork City fans have been campaigning for Maguire’s inclusion for several months and some will surely be left frustrated that the inclusion comes just five weeks after playing his final game for the Leesiders.

The 23-year-old has since made two competitive appearances for Preston, but was an unused substitute in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Leeds United.

“We’ve had him watched in the games and we’ll see again this week when they have another match,” O’Neill added. “I know there’s general excitement about it, I think your second question may have been about why he’s being called up now.

“I’m just giving you the reason and I don’t think that I’ve been behind the scenes and not picking a League of Ireland player, if that’s what you’re surmising.

“It’s not really to do with that, it’s more to do with the point that I want the players to feel comfortable in the group and I hope that at some stage or another players like him can get a chance.

“If you can score a goal at a very decent level then you’ll hopefully have a chance at international level. It’s not an easy step up.”

Preston North End v Arsenal - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Deepdale Preston North End skipper Greg Cunningham. Source: EMPICS Sport

He is one of seven ex-Cork City players in the Ireland squad — along with Kevin Long, Daryl Horgan, Alan Browne, David Meyler, Kevin Doyle and Shane Long.

Horgan and Browne are club mates of Maguire at Preston, as is full-back Greg Cunningham, who gets a recall. 26-year-old Cunningham earned his last of four Ireland caps back in 2013 but as captain of the Championship side, he will be aiming to force his way back into the international fold.

Asked about Cunningham, O’Neill said: “I’ve seen a lot of Preston over the last couple of years and he has been picked before but a couple of my coaching staff have watched him play and they have been particularly impressed so that’s great news.”

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