gone but not forgotten

Sean Maguire dismisses 'ridiculous' criticism of Cork City's title triumph

“We went 22 games unbeaten in the league but people seem to have forgotten about that,” he said.

Sean Maguire Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

HE MIGHT BE carrying a hamstring injury at the moment, but Sean Maguire arrived into training with Preston North End this morning with a spring in his step.

When he spotted two of his compatriots in the dressing room, he wasted no time in referencing last night’s events at Turner’s Cross, where Cork City were crowned SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions thanks to a goalless draw with Derry City.

The Leesiders finally claimed their first title since 2005 after finishing second for the past three seasons. They were bettered on each occasion by a Dundalk side that included Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan, who are now Maguire’s colleagues at Preston.

Maguire and Kevin O’Connor left Cork City in July to join the Irish contingent at the English Championship club. The ex-City duo watched the TV coverage of last night’s game together and celebrated as their former team-mates brought the title race to an end. Dundalk now trail by seven points with only two games remaining in the season.

“When I came into the dressing room this morning, the two boys [Boyle and Horgan] were there and I just started singing ‘Champions of Ireland, we know what we are’,” Maguire told The42 today.

“It’s just a bit of banter obviously and the boys congratulated Kev and myself. They knew Cork were eventually going to win it so they were proper good about it. We’re team-mates now and they’re happy for both of us, even though they’d have preferred Dundalk to win it.”

Cork City moved 18 points clear of Dundalk at the midway point of the season when Maguire netted a hat-trick in a 3-0 win against his former club at Oriel Park back in June. However, John Caulfield’s side have struggled since the 23-year-old — who’s still the Premier Division’s leading scorer with 20 goals — moved to Preston at the end of July.

After failing in two previous attempts to wrap up the title by being held to draws by both Dundalk and Bohemians in recent weeks, a share of the spoils at home to Derry last night was sufficient for the Leesiders to be confirmed as champions.

Birmingham City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship - St Andrews David Davies David Davies

Having made substantial contributions to that success, Maguire and O’Connor will both subsequently pick up medals. The pair are also hoping to be in attendance for the FAI Cup final between Cork City and Dundalk on 5 November at the Aviva Stadium.

If City can retain the cup they won at Dundalk’s expense last year thanks to Maguire’s dramatic winner in extra-time, they’ll complete the double for the first time in the club’s 33-year history.

Maguire said: “Kev and myself have been watching every game that’s been on telly lately, waiting for the boys to get the league wrapped up. I knew they were going to do it and it was well worth the wait. I felt like I was actually in Turner’s Cross last night with the fans when they won it. When they started singing ‘Champions of Ireland’ and people started tweeting about it, that’s when it sunk in.

“It’s been hard for Cork City over the last few years with Dundalk winning the last few leagues, but Cork are on top now and it’s great. The boys have a chance to make history now by going on to win the double. I think we play Ipswich that weekend and then it’s the international break so I’ll be hoping to get over for the game.”

As for the criticism that has been directed at Cork City due to their recent run of poor form, Maguire said: “I don’t understand it at all. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I saw a few people last night saying Cork are the worst champions to win the League of Ireland and it’s not deserved. Ridiculous.

“We went 22 games unbeaten in the league but people seem to have forgotten about that. As Johnny [Caulfield] said last night, in 10 years’ time people aren’t going to look back and talk about the time Cork City went a few weeks without winning a game. They’ll say Cork were the best team that year. It’s been an unbelievable season — the start we had was incredible — and the boys truly deserve this.”

Due to the aforementioned hamstring problem, Maguire has been rated as doubtful by Preston manager Alex Neil for Saturday’s game against Championship leaders Wolves. However, it’s not expected to affect his potential involvement in Ireland’s 2018 World Cup play-off against Denmark next month.

The Kilkenny native, who recently made his senior international debut against Moldova, sustained the injury during Saturday’s 2-2 draw away to Fulham. Maguire provided an assist and then scored Preston’s second goal at Craven Cottage as they picked up a point which keeps them in the play-off spots in England’s second tier.

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