Sean Maguire made a spectacular return to action for Preston North End on Saturday - and now, the Kilkenny frontman is on a mission to fire the Lilywhites into the Premier League.

Preston are ninth, three points outside the play-off spots, following a 3-1 win at Bolton Wanderers. Maguire has been out for four months with a hamstring problem but the former Cork City striker rose from the bench on 64 minutes and plundered a brace that swung the game.

It was a dream comeback for a man whose stock has continued to soar since his move across the water last July.

He can expect to be named in Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland squad this for the friendly against Turkey on 23 March and  will be absolutely key to Preston's push for promotion. 

The 23-year-old admitted he was overwhelmed by his goalscoring cameo.

"You can't write this stuff," he told the club's website.

"To even be back involved with 4,000 fans singing your name in a big derby game that you have to win and to contribute to that and score two goals, it's the best feeling I've had in football.

"Being out for four months and being frustrated a lot of the time coming in knowing you're not going to be involved and in the matchday squad so to be back here today and to be involved was great.

"Coming on did a lot for my confidence but to score my first brace for the club is the best feeling in my football career.

"I felt good today and I felt sharp coming on. We've a lot of big games coming up now."

His finishes - in the 77th and 90th minutes - were typically clinical.

It's highly likely Maguire would have played some part in the ill-fated World Cup play-off loss to Denmark had he not suffered an injury but 2018 is a blank canvas, and one brimming with opportunity.

"When you're playing you don't really think about injuries, and I never thought I'd get an injury like that so it was a funny one," he added.

"I played two game with it, and when I got the scan, I broke down in tears. It's been tough, but everybody close to me has been great to me. 

"I just can't put into words how good that felt, but we won't get too excited yet. We'll enjoy today but get back into training to get sharper and fit because it's a big 11 games for the club.

"We want to get into those play-offs."