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Sean's time to shine

Striker Maguire hopes injury-free spell can kick-start his international career at last

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Sean Maguire is ready to prove himself on the international stage. Pics: Sportsfile

Sean Maguire is ready to prove himself on the international stage. Pics: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Sean Maguire and Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy during a training session. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean Maguire and Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy during a training session. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Sean Maguire is ready to prove himself on the international stage. Pics: Sportsfile

Sean Maguire and international football have not been friends.

The striker's time in the U21 set-up was puzzling and disappointing, all of his 13 caps at that level coming as a sub, most of them in the last 10 minutes of a hopeless cause.

When he outgrew the U21s, there was a spell when he was firing in the goals for his club, Cork City, and there were calls for Martin O'Neill to pick the in-form forward. Calls which O'Neill ignored, only selecting the forward when he moved to England.

If Lansdowne Road stadium had a roof, Maguire would have raised it when he lifted the crowd while coming on for his senior debut, as a late sub for Shane Long, in a World Cup qualifier win over Moldova.

Bright spot

But that was the only bright spot as the rest of his time with Ireland was pockmarked with misery. He picked up an injury playing for an Ireland XI in Scott Brown's testimonial, which ruled him out of the three-game series of internationals last summer.

In November, having recovered from an injury sustained with his club in pre-season, he was again knocked back by an injury picked up in the friendly against Northern Ireland, and thus missed the final game of the Martin O'Neill era, in Aarhus.

So them's the stats: 13 U21 caps and no starts; four senior appearances, no goals for Maguire and just one win.

If anyone needs a fresh start from the era of McCarthyism, it's the Luton-born, Kilkenny-raised, Preston-based striker.

"I haven't really kicked on on the international stage. When I put the Irish jersey on, I haven't really done myself justice," says Maguire, almost certain to start in Gibraltar tomorrow as Shane Long is absent due to injury.

"I haven't played particularly well. I know I've only had one start, had a few cameos here and there. This could be a couple of game s where I could kic k on.

"I'm ready. And I'll relish the opportunity to put the jersey on, hopefully hold it to that number nine jersey."

McCarthy has more than a few issues to deal with as he tries to heal an Ireland team which looked broken and battered in 2018, but one is a very basic task: scoring goals.

On paper, it's a huge problem. The Republic scored just four times in nine games in 2018 while the four-strong strike force which flew out to Gibraltar has just one international goal between them, that scored in a friendly, by Aiden O'Brien.

But Maguire feels he can help, his own readiness for the international stage boosted by working with Robbie Keane.

"I'm a goalscorer so I back myself to score goals, given the opportunity. For people to compare me to Robbie or put me on a par with Robbie would probably be a bit unfair to me because Robbie is a world-class player and a world-class goalscorer," says Maguire.

"I think with my record for Cork and when I am fit for Preston, I score goals. I feel like if I just get that one then the rest will take care of itself and hopefully that happens this weekend," he added, eager to work more often with the country's all-time scorer.

"It's good to have him in. When the squad got announced and Robbie was involved, obviously i was relishing meeting him for the very first time and I feel like I can go from strength to strength working with him," he explains.

" I wasn't training on Monday but he was in the boxes with the boys and they were saying that he didn't give the ball away once.

"Even in training on Tuesday, we were playing 11 v 11. Afterwards he came over to me and told me what I did right and what I did wrong, what I could be doing better.

"That's good. When a player like that is telling me, I'm going to listen to him.

Demand

"Most of Robbie's goals were one touch, two touches. You get most of your goals in the 18 yard box and I suppose I need to go on from that."

Maguire knows a win, with a few goals, is the demand from tomorrow and he feels that's a burden the squad have to cope with.

"We can't underestimate them, they won their first game last year, and they won't be pushovers. It will be one of those underdog stories but as a striker, these types of games, where there will be a few opportunities, are the games you want to play in. Hopefully I'm on my A-game come Saturday and get my first goal."


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