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Sunday 30 April 2017

Kilbane's lifted by hot McGeady form

Ex-international believes Preston winger pushing for big role against Wales

Aiden McGeady (r) celebrates Robbie Brady’s goal in the Euro 2016 win over Italy last summer. The winger is showing fine form for Preston ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
Aiden McGeady (r) celebrates Robbie Brady’s goal in the Euro 2016 win over Italy last summer. The winger is showing fine form for Preston ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

It's an obvious source of pleasure to Preston-born Kevin Kilbane that Deepdale has become so important to Ireland's football fortunes.

Manager Simon Grayson took a loan punt on Aiden McGeady and followed that with a swoop for Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle. He has snagged himself some real bargains.

"I spoke to Simon Grayson about Daryl Horgan a long time ago and he had been mentioned to him by a few people. He was aware of him," said Kilbane.

"It's a no-brainer of a deal. You're getting two players on a free transfer. I knew the level they were at and I knew the level Preston were at - they were a good Championship club of course - but they were always going to be the lower tier of the Championship.

"But all of a sudden now, he's got Aiden McGeady who's doing great and he's got a side capable in the next two or three years of kicking on to the next level, because they're young enough."

Kilbane is in no doubt that Boyle will get his chance, given time, but he is setting an even higher bar for Horgan and particularly for the rejuvenated McGeady.

Out of sorts for so long when he returned from Moscow to an anonymous spell at Goodison Park, McGeady's after-burners are roaring back into life.

The two goals he scored last weekend made people remember days at Celtic Park when he turned top-notch Champions League players inside out and made old men reach back to Jinky Johnstone for a reference point.

Everyone thought Scotland had blundered very badly to let one so talented get away while we all sat back, preparing to be dazzled. Never happened.

"He's been playing well all season," claimed Kilbane. "I must have been half a dozen times this season to Deepdale and whenever I've seen him, he's having an influence on every game. We know what Aiden is like, sometimes he will have spells, wide men will have that when they're not in games.

"Now, he's either creating chances or having shots at goal himself. He's scoring goals which is maybe highlighting that fact but all season he's been excellent. Grayson just gives him licence."

Can McGeady break back into Martin O'Neill's plans for Wales and beyond as a result of this hot form?

"I think he can and it's not being flippant saying that. He's playing in the championship so we know it will be a step up for him but he's always had that ability," he said.

"Whether it's lack of confidence or there are certain issues around him, things that meant he was not performing to his best. But we've all seen him at certain spells in his career when he influenced international games and he has still got that ability.

"At Preston, it looks to me as if he's been given licence to go and express himself.

"Grayson doesn't put too much pressure on him from a defensive point of view.

"We know that Martin loves him, he's very fond of him because he helped develop him as a youngster," said Kilbane.

"He's a huge favourite at Deepdale. I was at the Arsenal game and it was the first time I heard it. He's actually got a song about himself and you can see that he is loving it, relishing playing in front of manager who has total belief in him.

"I used to remember when he was playing under Trapattoni and I just felt that that he put too much pressure on him day to day in training.

"He always used to single him out for things. If something went wrong in training, it was almost as if he blamed Aiden for it."

Briefly, when Horgan's meteoric rise took him all the way to O'Neill's senior squad, McGeady looked like a fading power, an impact sub at best and that despite O'Neill's obvious regard for him.

"I think he's ahead of Horgan now. His experience and everything else.

"Daryl Horgan has to prove himself. He has to be on the bench for a few games. You would imagine he is going to get some sort of (Ireland) game time over the next two games.

"Maybe not the Wales game but certainly Iceland which would be the perfect setting for him to get a game."

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