Seanie Maguire - he scored in his first game for Preston. Picture: Sportsfile
On Monday morning Seanie Maguire left home and headed for training – only this wasn’t about getting ready for another week with Cork City.
Instead, the Kilkennyman made a fresh start - new home, new kit, new club. The long goodbye at Turners Cross is over – Maguire is now gearing up for life in the English Football League (EFL) Championship with Preston North End.
The deal may have been announced almost two months ago, making the move seem far away in the distance, but the speed at which the ending came was fast enough! But the new beginning was bright. Maguire scored in his first game, against Burnley.
“It was a hectic end to life in Cork,” he said. “After getting back from Cyprus (Maguire’s last game was the second leg of the Europa League clash with AEK Larnaca) I left for Holyhead on Sunday to be in Preston for training on Monday. The weekend was spent packing stuff and getting things sorted.”
News of the move has increased the glare of the spotlight shining on Maguire, but a heavy schedule of games, not least in Europe, was enough to keep him occupied.
“The Europa League games have been great in that they’ve taken my mind off things,” he said. “I was concentrating on wanting to do well for Cork City and to help them progress, but it all started to get very real in the last week, especially when I got the chance to put on the Preston training kit and meet all the players while they were training in Cork.
“There has been a lot of publicity about the move,” he continued. “A lot of people were asking questions about the move, but I just wanted to concentrate on doing my job with Cork.
“I think I did it quite well and managed to continue my form. All I wanted to do was score goals and win games for Cork City. We’ve done really well this season, playing close to 30 competitive games and losing only one (the first leg against Larnaca).
“Now it’s time to focus on life in Preston,” he said. “It’s a new challenge, a new chapter. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Maguire is doing himself a slight disservice when talking about how he thinks he did well – the goal he scored in his last League game for Cork saw him equal Pat Morley’s scoring record for the Rebel Army. Not bad when you consider Morley took a full season to hit the 20 goals Maguire has struck in 21 games!
“I was only reminded of that target a few games ago,” he said. “I think it was before the Limerick game that people were telling me I was close to equalling the record, but for me it was all about getting the results.
“It was a great achievement to hit the 20 goals, not just for me but my family and everyone who has supported me. I felt I could have beaten it in Bray as I had a few chances to grab a few more, but to equal it in 21 games was a massive achievement.”
A player who thrives on confidence, Maguire shrugged off a disappointing spell with Dundalk in some style, scoring the winner against the league champions in last year’s FAI Cup final.
He didn’t ease up in the off-season, working hard to ensure he hit the ground running this term.
“I could say this on behalf of every striker, but strikers thrive on confidence,” he said. “The more games you go without scoring the less confident you become.
“With the form I’m in I feel I can score in every game I play in. That’s a credit to my team-mates, the manager and staff at Cork and all their hard work. Now I’m hoping to recreate that form at Preston. I feel I can make that step up to the Championship and bring the goals to Preston.
“Who knows, maybe down the line I can finally put that Irish jersey on,” he added. “That’s something I would hope to do in the future, but short-term my plan is to show the Preston manager what I can do, to get in the team and take my opportunities so I can make my case to become Preston’s main striker.”
Maguire knows he will have to work hard to prove himself at Deepdale. Given the managerial merry-go-round that is English football the man who scouted and signed Maguire, Simon Grayson, has left the club to manage Middlesbrough. However, Maguire is relishing the chance to prove himself to new boss Alex Neil.
“It’s a bit odd that the manager who signed me isn’t at the club anymore but having a new manager come in will work even better for me as every player has a clean slate now,” he said. “The manager was at the first leg of the AEK Larnaca tie, which wasn’t ideal as we lost 1-0, but scoring against Bray has given me a new lease of life - it was great to get back to winning ways.”
While Maguire has enjoyed his time in the Airtricity League, the goal was always to get back to England. However, he gone about it with maturity, waiting until things were right before making that jump. As far as he was concerned, a debt had to be paid before his departure.
“I had a few options to go in November but I felt that I owed something to Cork,” he said.
“I wanted to stay and help the club to win the league as they hadn’t won it in 12 years (Damien Richardson led the club to their last top-flight title in 2005).
“I got a taste for silverware with Cork when we won the FAI Cup last season and felt there was no better place to be to win another major trophy. I also felt that if you do well in this league that there will be talk of you going elsewhere and that the chance to move would come sooner rather than later.
“I had a few options, but I believed that Preston was the right club for me, not just because of the Irish contingent (Maguire will have five other Irish players as team-mates - Andy Boyle, Daryl Horgan, Alan Browne, Eoin Doyle and Kevin O’Connor) but the club is going in the right direction. Preston are an ambitious club, a club who will be looking to make the jump to the Premier League.”
Playing in a hotbed of sport that is Cork has been good for Maguire. Backed by a strong support in the dugout and the stands, he credits the club with giving him a new mature outlook.
“I’ve matured a lot since coming to Cork,” he said. “It’s almost as if I came here as a boy and left as a man. I’ve been surrounded by people who have given me good advice and that was a big reason for me not jumping at the first club who showed an interest in me. I’ve weighed up my options and feel I’m in a better place.
“The fans are great - they love their sport and they love their club,” he continued. “I love this club and I love this city - I’m a Kilkennyman but I’m rarely home, which is a sign of how well I settled into Cork. It’s hard to leave there, but this is a new chapter.”
Maguire had the chance to meet his new team-mates when Preston came to Ireland for some preseason training. It also gave him the opportunity to show his new club what he was made of.
“That was a strange one,” he said, recalling the visit to Fota Island for a training session with North End. “I went down to meet my new team-mates, put on the Preston training gear but I was still a Cork City player.
“However Preston came to Cork for a training camp and wanted us (Maguire and fellow new signing Kevin O’Connor) to come down and get a feel for the club. That was good to do, as this week we’re entering a new environment and we’ve already met people and know what their roles are.
“That meant that I could hit the ground running with Preston and concentrate on proving to this manager what I can bring to the table. As well as goals I feel my main attribute is my work-rate, so I’m looking forward to it all.”
Just speaking to Maguire you can feel how determined he is to get over there and work hard for his new team.
“You can have all the quality in the world but if you don’t have work-rate you’ve nothing,” he said. “If you keep working hard and things aren’t going well for you in front of goal then you have to make sure you’re giving 100% for the team.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to do in every game. If things aren’t going my way then I try to make sure I’m doing something for the team - that’s something every Cork player has done. They’ve all had the same attitude, which is down to (Cork manager) John Caulfield and all he has brought to the table.
“He’s brought in players with the same belief, which has been reflected in the league form.
“The club is going in the right direction in every way,” said Maguire. “The numbers coming out to support the team shows you how big a club it is - the atmosphere they create makes it feel like there’s 20,000 supporters there at times. John brought in the players he believed he needed to build that, so it’s a credit to him and his staff, the guys in the background who do a lot of work behind the scenes.
It’s that preseason hunger which has helped Maguire get to where he is at. Now he is hoping it will propel him to the next level.
“I worked hard in the preseason and because of it I feel a lot sharper, a lot quicker.
“I feel a lot stronger too,” he added. “I’ve scored a lot of goals in the air this season, beating guys who are lot taller and broader than me.
“All that work has paid off,” he said. “Hopefully I can carry that form with me to Preston and make my way into the team.”