"I feel that I’m mentally strong" - Sean Maguire ready to put injuries behind him to take Ireland chance
"Hopefully I can play a part in these very important games."
Sean Maguire is one of five Republic of Ireland strikers with a chance to claim a regular starting spot in the team. Martin O'Neill named an inexperienced and goal-shy strike-force in the squad for matches against Denmark and Wales.
Shane Long, Scott Hogan, Maguire, Aiden O'Brien and Callum Robinson only have 18 goals between them at senior international level. Long has 17 of those goals and O'Brien netted on his debut against Poland last month.
Robinson, Hogan, O'Brien and Maguire also only have six caps between them. It has been two years since Long last scored for Ireland.
"There'll never be another Robbie Keane and there wasn't one before he came along. What other small European country has such a player or ever did? He was an outlier" | @RobRedmond10 https://t.co/MSn8At2PGy
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) October 9, 2018
However, there is also a chance for one of them to cement their place in O'Neill's team. Even if they will never match the feats of Robbie Keane, an impossible task.
"I don’t think we will ever fully replace him, given the number of goals he has scored for his country," Maguire told reporters at the Aviva Stadium.
"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."
Ahead of two crucial Uefa Nations League games against Denmark and Wales, O'Neill bemoaned Ireland's lack of cutting edge. And the Ireland manager had a point.
Shane Duffy, the Brighton central defender, is now arguably the team's best chance of scoring a goal. O'Neill lamented that the team no longer have a goalscorer of Keane's calibre.
However, the former Ireland captain was an outlier. We never had such a player before and will never have someone like Robbie Keane again. He scored 68 international goals. An incredible feat.
But Maguire certainly has the mental strength and the talent to take on the challenge of trying to fill Keane's boots.
"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," he said.
"It’s been a frustrating year. Sitting down here 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."
The Preston North End forward has had several setbacks already in his short career. He struggled for game time at West Ham United and with Dundalk.
He then excelled with Cork City and earned a move to Preston, where he has impressed but has been hampered by injuries.
He only made his first appearance of the season last weekend, playing 20 minutes of a 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic. But, despite his lack of playing time, Maguire is ready to play for Ireland if called upon.
"I've been out 10 weeks now and was back training four weeks ago," Maguire said.
"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. Hopefully, I can play a part in these very important games."
Maguire is still only 24. He has the talent to play at international level, that was evident from his spell with Cork and he has proved himself at Preston, scoring 10 goals in 24 Championship appearances.
He is highly rated by his club manager, Alex Neil and has plenty of time to rediscover his form and fitness after two serious injuries.
Very few would have judged him harshly if he had decided to stay behind in Preston to work on his fitness after such a long time out.
However, Maguire wants to be involved for Ireland and will to put his body on the line against Denmark and Wales if he has to.
"If I’m named in the starting 11, then I'll be more than happy to step up to the plate," he said.
"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."