Sean Maguire is desperate for a chance to prove he can be the man to fill Robbie Keane’s boots as the Republic of Ireland search for a new goalscoring hero.
Keane, now a member of new manager Mick McCarthy’s coaching staff, scored 68 goals in 146 appearances for his country, both record highs, and his retirement from international football in 2016 left a yawning chasm.
Just as predecessor Martin O’Neill had to do, McCarthy faces the challenge of finding the man or men to pick up the baton with the four strikers in his first squad – Maguire, David McGoldrick, Aiden O’Brien and James Collins – having only 14 appearances and a single goal between them.
Nevertheless, Preston’s Maguire is confident he can score goals at international level as he attempts to prove a frustrating run of hamstring injuries is behind him.
He said: “I think when I’m playing, when I’m fully fit, my record speaks for itself. But when I have put the Irish jersey on, I don’t think I’ve done myself any justice.
“I’ve only had one start and a couple of cameos, but when I started this time last year against Turkey, I didn’t particularly play well at all and didn’t play up to the standards I set myself.
“But given the opportunity, I think I can bring goals.”
Keane’s presence in the camp has brought a sharper focus to Ireland’s lack of firepower – they managed just four goals in nine games in 2018 – but his knowledge and reputation could prove invaluable to the men trying to address that issue.
Maguire said: “It was my first time meeting Robbie, coming in on Sunday and he brings that aura with and you want to learn from him straight away.
“It’s just great to be involved with a player of his stature, and I’ve no doubt that even in the space of these 10 days being involved with Robbie, I’ll probably go from strength to strength and kick on as a player because he’s a player you want to look up to and everything you want to be.
“His goals speak for themselves, 68 goals for Ireland, and hopefully in these next couple of games, I can kick on my international career.”
The campaign gets under way in Gibraltar on Saturday and both McCarthy and his players have been keen to stress they cannot afford to disrespect their opponents despite their lowly status.
Maguire said: “By no means should we under-estimate Gibraltar – they won their first game last year in the last campaign, so we will be fully focused to start the campaign with three points.”
Maguire will hope for just his second Ireland start a year to the day after his first, with a succession of serious hamstring injuries having limited his involvement to date.
He said: “That very first hamstring injury came a year and a half ago and I’ve had three serious ones since.
“Touch wood, I haven’t had one since the Northern Ireland game in November, which is good and I feel like I’m nearly back to my best.”
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