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'It's my body at the end of the day... I just need to keep in touch with Preston'

Sean Maguire insists he is ready to face Denmark and Wales despite concerns over the striker’s match fitness.

Sean Maguire pictured at an Ireland press conference.
Sean Maguire pictured at an Ireland press conference.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Aviva Stadium

AT 24, SEAN Maguire is already well used to dealing with setbacks in football.

There was his failure to make an impact during his first stint in England at West Ham and his subsequent struggles to establish himself in the Dundalk team before a move to Cork City paid dividends and saw him begin the trajectory that would eventually secure his status as one of the country’s top strikers.

A high-profile move to Preston followed and while he has impressed in the Championship when available to play, his second stint abroad has been hampered by injuries.

Last season, a promising start to his Preston career was hindered by a serious hamstring injury that saw him miss a significant portion of the campaign, though he still emerged with a decent haul of 10 goals as his club narrowly missed out on a play-off spot.

This year, an injury suffered in pre-season meant the former Waterford youngster only made his first appearance of the campaign last Saturday, as he came off the bench in the second half to set up the final goal in the last few minutes of the team’s 4-0 win over Wigan. 

Club boss Alex Neil was highly complimentary when speaking about Maguire afterwards, explaining that the attacker had been “missed” by the club and adding: “He showed why he is such an important player for us.”

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the upcoming Nations League matches with Wales and Denmark, Maguire explained that he was being managed carefully in an attempt to minimise the risk of his troublesome hamstring encountering further problems.

I’ve been out 10 weeks now and was back training four weeks ago. I think it was about easing myself into it, because I obviously had a serious hamstring injury last year. We trained the week before the start of the season and I picked up another serious hamstring injury.

“The 20 minutes at the weekend were crucial to get, and hopefully I can play a part in these very important games.”

Despite suffering bad injuries twice in the same area in a relatively short space of time, Maguire said he was not overly anxious about another potential recurrence of the issue.

“I think every player is different. I feel that I’m mentally strong, having two very serious hamstring injuries. Other players might be weak mentally.

“It’s been a frustrating year. Sitting down here [at an Ireland press conference] last year, I didn’t really have injuries — a year later, I’ve had two. Hopefully, I’ve put it behind me now and can kick on for club and country.”

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Moreover, with Ireland badly in need of a regular goalscorer, a problem that has been a longstanding issue during the Martin O’Neill era, Maguire believes there is an chance there for one out of the quartet of inexperienced attackers — himself, Scott Hogan, Callum Robinson and Aiden O’Brien — to grasp.

We haven’t had that goalscorer since Robbie Keane left,” Maguire adds. “I don’t think we will ever fully replace him, given the number of goals he has scored for his country. But I feel there is an opportunity for one of the four new lads coming in to stake a claim for a jersey.

“If I get the opportunity, hopefully I do step up to the plate and play a crucial part — if that’s coming off the bench or from the start of the game, we’ll see what happens.”

Despite Martin O’Neill hinting he may be restricted to a bit-part role in these games, Maguire also played down concerns that his lack of match fitness could prevent him for having a big impact in the upcoming fixtures.

“If I’m named in the starting XI, then I’ll be more than happy to step up to the plate.

“You have to [be monitored] day by day, as I’ve only been back in training for four weeks. I’ve only played 45 minutes in a practice game and 20 minutes at the weekend.

“It’s my body at the end of the day, and I just need to talk to the physios here and monitor here, and keep in touch with Preston.”

Speaking of the Lilywhites, they have had a dismal start to the season, with Saturday’s win bringing the club some much-needed relief. But despite the confidence boost those three points created, Preston still sit in the Championship relegation zone, though Maguire is confident they won’t be there for long.

We are more than capable of pushing up the table. It’s a mad league — you win a couple of games and you push up the table, and if you lose a couple, you find yourself in the bottom half.

“I feel that our current position is undeserved. The games that we have been losing we have been scoring in, but we have been leaking them at the their end. I feel we turned a corner at the weekend, and there are a couple of winnable games after the international break.”

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Paul Fennessy

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