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Maguire ahead of schedule on road to recovery as he closes in on return

The Preston North End and Ireland striker has been out with a hamstring injury since November.

Updated Feb 9th 2018, 8:05 AM

Sean Maguire Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SEAN MAGUIRE LOOKS set to be available to win his second senior cap for the Republic of Ireland in next month’s friendly against Turkey.

The Preston North End striker says he’s approaching the finish line in his recovery from a serious hamstring injury which has already ruled him out for over three months.

Maguire hasn’t played since 1 November, when Preston suffered a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Championship. Having struggled during the game, the Kilkenny native discovered afterwards that he had sustained an injury which required surgery.

However, Maguire has recovered well and he now hopes to be back in contention to feature for Preston by the beginning of March. He scored four times in 13 appearances for his club this season before the injury occurred.

“The recovery is actually going brilliantly,” Maguire told The42. “Next week I’ll start with a bit of light training and the week after I’ll hopefully be fully training. All going well, I’ll be in contention for selection in about three weeks.

“I’m feeling really strong now. It’s just about getting the fitness back up. It’s gone better than I expected. I’m a couple of weeks ahead of schedule already, which I’m obviously delighted with.”

Hull City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship - KCOM Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

With Preston currently just three points adrift of the Championship play-off places in their bid to reach the Premier League next season, Maguire will be hoping to make a positive contribution to Alex Neil’s side’s promotion push when he returns.

The 23-year-old is also keen on another taste of international football. Maguire came off the bench to win his only cap to date in last October’s 2-0 victory over Moldova. Injury then ruled him out of the World Cup play-off defeat to Denmark. Martin O’Neill’s tenure as Ireland boss will resume with a friendly against Turkey in Antalya on 23 March.

“That Turkey game is definitely in the back of my mind,” says Maguire. “It would obviously be great to get selected for that. The main focus for me now is to get back to full fitness, get myself back in the Preston team and pick up where I left off by scoring goals and doing well for the team.

“It’ll be good to be back for the business-end of the season. We’re seventh in the league, three points off the play-offs, so it’s a good position to be in. But it would be great to be involved for the Turkey game. I’ll be fit before then so it’s just down to whether I get selected or not.”

Maguire joined Preston last July after excelling during an 18-month spell at Cork City. He scored 20 goals in 21 Premier Division games in the 2017 season before departing, which helped the Leesiders to claim their first title in 12 years.

Having played as the central striker in a front three at City, Maguire was then deployed in a wide berth by Alex Neil. But with striker Jordan Hugill leaving Preston for West Ham United during the January transfer window, Maguire could be given a chance to lead the line through the middle upon his return.

Sean Maguire Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He said: “We have a couple of lads who could play as a number nine or out wide, like myself. The competition we have at Preston is brilliant. The manager has brought in a couple of very good players, Billy Bodin and Louis Moult, and we’ve been doing well in terms of results.

“I’ve done well playing out wide, but if the gaffer threw me in as a full-back I’d play there too. It’s up to him at the end of the day, but my favourite position is number nine and I think that’s where you get the best out of me.

“I’ve done quite well on the left and the right wing, the gaffer likes playing me out there. He’s even said himself that I can be more effective out wide. But I’ll try and do a job no matter where I’m playing.”

Maguire added: “I’m just looking forward to being back out there now. It feels like forever ago since I kicked a ball, but I’m nearly there. It’s within touching distance. I just can’t wait to get back playing.”

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Paul Dollery

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