‘I owe everything to John Caulfield and Cork City’
Ireland and Preston striker Seanie Maguire salutes Cork City’s title success and explains the debt he feels he owes to the club and manager John Caulfield
For the past few weeks, when Cork Cty’s games have been on the telly, myself and Kevin O’Connor have been getting together in one of our houses in Preston to tune in.
And on Tuesday night came the moment we’d waiting for, the final whistle in the draw with Derry which meant City are the 2017 League of Ireland champions.
It was fantastic for us to see the boys finally get over the line and, afterwards, seeing all the congratulations to the players and the club on Twitter made the whole thing really sink in. And the following day, I got to speak to a few of the boys myself.
It was all worth the wait. Myself and Kev were saying to each other on Tuesday night that, even though things are going great at Preston, it would have been nice to have been in the stands at Turner’s Cross just to take it all in. Seeing the celebrations on the pitch shows you not only what it means to the club, the staff and the players but also to the supporters and the people of Cork. They’ve waited 12 years for this and it was a really tough decade at times for them before things turned around. To finish top of the pack after coming second three times is a great achievement and I’ve no doubt now that this City team can make history for the club by going on and doing the double next month.
Kev and I can’t be at the Cross on Friday week when they will actually get to lift the trophy after the Bray game but we are hoping to be back for the cup final. And it’s a great feeling for the two of us to know that when we do get home, there will be league medals waiting for us.
The boys are entitled to celebrate what has been a long hard season — when they get the chance. Because, with two games left in the league, I know for a fact that John Caulfield will want them to finish strong so they go into the cup final in a really positive frame of mind.
Some people have been writing off City’s chances against Dundalk because they hadn’t been doing as well lately as earlier in the season but I think that was just down to a lack of confidence. I’m sure Tuesday night will have rectified that.
Certainly, in terms of boosting self-belief, there’s no doubt in my mind winning the cup last season was the springboard for this year’s success. I felt the club really needed to claim a trophy and once we did, we kicked on from there.
Going 22 games in a row unbeaten this season was unbelievable. People are too quick to forget that. A league isn’t won over a couple of weeks, and it’s because the boys set such an incredible pace over such a long run of games that they are where they are now. In 10 years time people won’t remember Cork not winning a few games; they’ll remember them as the champions of 2017. I’m so glad I was able to play my part because I owe the club and, in particular John Caulfield, so much.
I remember the first phone call from him very clearly. I knew I didn’t want to sign back with Dundalk because of the way I’d been treated up there. I wasn’t in a good a place, didn’t really know what I was going to do next, and when I got that phone call asking me to meet up with him, I jumped at the opportunity.
And when we did sit down to talk, he made it all seem so simple. He said: ‘We know you’re lacking a bit of confidence at the moment but you’re a good player and we want to bring you to Cork’. He said he was happy to give me the opportunity but that then it would be up to me to make the most of it. From that moment, I got my focus back. I worked hard in the gym so that, even before I went into preseason with Cork, I was already at a good fitness level. And it all took off from there. I scored a couple of goals on my home debut and really haven’t looked back since.
Getting the move to Preston, making my Ireland debut — if it hadn’t been for Cork City and John Caulfield, none of this would have happened. I feel I owe everything to them. I might be a Kilkenny man but Cork and Cork City will always be a home from home for me.
If I had to pick a personal highlight from this season with the club, it would have to be getting a hattrick when we beat Dundalk 3-0 up at Oriel Park.
The previous time we’d gone up there we’d lost the league so to go back and win so emphatically was a huge result. And to score the hat-trick was a massive plus for me. I was getting stick off their fans prior to the game and I was getting stick off their fans during the game, so to score three — and two of them at the end where all the Cork supporters were — was definitely one of the high points of the whole year.
It also turned out to be a significant moment for me on the way to making my international debut. I think Martin O’Neill, who was there that night, has said that not just the goals but the runs I was making and my movement in the box ticked a lot of the boxes he likes to see.
I look back in wonder now at how this whole year has gone so far. From the President’s Cup and scoring 20 goals with City to moving to Preston, getting an international call-up and then making my Irish debut — it’s been the stuff of dreams. And now Ireland are on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup finals.
But I still feel the hard work is only starting now. Having had a taste of international football, I definitely want more. And I also intend to do all I can to try and help Preston get promotion to the Premier League.
I’m confident too that Cork City will enjoy further success, not just in the coming cup final but in years to come. It’s a fantastic club which has traditionally produced some phenomenal players, and I think this title will ensure they continue to do that. And while I’d imagine John will want to keep the bones of this squad together for next year, he will also want to strengthen in certain areas and, to that end, the lure of Champions League football should also attract some big names to the club.
But that’s for another day. For now, I’m just thrilled and delighted for everyone at the club that Cork City are the champions of Ireland.
SPECIAL MEMORY: Seanie Maguire savours the moment after scoring the second of his hat-trick in Cork City’s victory over title rivals Dundalk at Oriel Park in June. The Ireland striker nominated this game as his personal highlight from a season he describes as ‘the stuff of dreams’.