Gary Connaughton reporting from the Aviva Stadium
It's been a long road for Sean Maguire. After looking like he was ready to take international football by storm after his rise in the League of Ireland and the Championship, a series of injuries in the past couple of seasons had halted what looked like certain progress.
When he made his debut in Ireland's win over Moldova in October of 2017, few could have predicted that it would take over two years before he would notch his first international goal. That's the way things would play out, be it surely only made his stunning strike against New Zeland tonight all the sweeter.
Speaking to the media after the game, Maguire described the relief at finally getting the international goalscoring monkey off his back.
It's a massive weight lifted off my shoulders tonight. It's the type of goal that I don't normally score, normally I score my goals inside the 18-yard box.
The chances I got in the first half nine times out of ten I fancy myself to score. Long has played a good ball over the top and I'm one-on-one with the 'keeper, it kind of got stuck under my feet but I should be scoring those.
I was a bit frustrated but at halftime the gaffer, TC (Terry Connor) and Robbie (Keane) just said 'keep going, keep getting into those areas', which I did and thankfully scored.
Not a bad way to score your first international goal 👀pic.twitter.com/y3zWE6juKz
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) November 14, 2019
His goal was worth the wait. Troy Parrott made it with his hard work, turning possession over high up the pitch. He calmly laid it off to the onrushing Maguire, who made no mistake with the finish.
The Preston man wasn't the only man to net his first international goal tonight. Derrick Williams opened Ireland's tally, while Maguire's former club teammate Callum Robinson also ended his wait at this level. Couple that with strong performances from other inexperienced players such as Jack Byrne, and you have a decent night at the office.
Maguire admitted the goal was a dream come true for him, but sharing it with some others who have gone through similar experiences made it all the sweeter.
It was a weird one. It's a little over 20 yards out, but the minute it's left my foot I knew it was going in. Normally I have a celebration or two in me, but tonight it was all about emotion and I didn't really know what to do.
You dream of these moments, scoring for your country. I'm absolutely over the moon...
It's brilliant, actually. Everybody knows what type of player Jack (Byrne) is, he's an unbelievable footballer. When he gets into those tight areas he always manages to get out of there. He created a lot of chances and slipped through balls in the first half.
I was delighted for Robbo (Robinson) to score tonight. He was the same boat as myself, you keep seeing those caps rack up but you don't see any goals. It was important for our confidence tonight to grab a goal each.