Saturday 21 April 2018

'There's no Irish Woodburn, but Maguire's still an option for O'Neill'

Striker Seán Maguire has a future at Irish senior level
Striker Seán Maguire has a future at Irish senior level

Fresh from a stint working with some Ireland's underage teams, former international Keith Andrews fears that the next generation of young Irish talent is nowhere near ready to step up and help out at senior level.

But Andrews does see a role with Ireland, before the World Cup campaign ends, for former Cork City forward Seán Maguire.

While it was a gloomy week for the senior side, with two points gained from a possible six in the World Cup qualifiers, a run which leaves the World Cup dream in danger of dying out, there was one positive as the Irish U21 side won their Euro qualifier, away to Azerbaijan and now top their group with two wins from two.

Current U21 cap Declan Rice has played in the Premier League this season, for West Ham, while youngsters like Conor Shaughnessy (Leeds) have impressed in the Championship.

But Ireland can only look on in envy at the likes of Wales who can throw a 17-year-old, Ben Woodburn, into their senior squad at the tail end of the qualification process and get the reward of two stunning performances.

"I've worked with the under-age teams, we have very good players but they are not ready yet," says Andrews, who was on the coaching staff with the Irish U17 side which qualified for the European Championship finals last summer.

"They have a lot to work to do at club level to get on and get playing in the U23s and getting first-team experience. There's a lot of talent.

"We are so reliant on what they do in England or the National League. It's just so hard.

"We were at the U17 Euros in May in Croatia, and the best player in the tournament by a mile was a lad called Jadon Sancho, who has gone to Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City. That lad was one of the best players I've ever seen. He was phenomenal.

"If he's not making a dent at Man City, that for me made me stand up and see that's the level.

"We've got one lad from our U17s at Man United, but in his youth team there are South Americans, there are every nation in Europe. That's what you are up against.

"So whether (Scott) Hogan or (Sean) Maguire comes into it, it's up to Martin," added Andrews, who sees a possible role for Maguire.

"Sometimes, even when I was playing, there was too much of a clamour for certain individuals to be part of the squad and I wouldn't have agreed with some of them.

"But I agreed with the Seán Maguire, because I've seen him. I saw his last game before he went, the Bray game, and I know you put it in perspective who he is playing against. But you can tell if someone is a good player or not but you could tell he was playing in the playground that day.

"He's just something that we haven't got and you chuck into the equation that Daryl Murphy is 34 and Jon Walters is 34 this month.

"His link up play is very good. You get headlines from scoring goals but then you start analysing people's games and what else they bring to the table.

"I think he's very clever in terms of being able to play a 10 or a narrow wide position to get him into the team and up running at Preston. I'm a big fan of his. Hogan hasn't really hit the ground running at Villa. To be saying that he is the answer is very premature."

p Keith Andrews was speaking at the launch of the Eir Sport Pack for the season.

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