The 22-year old is currently with League One outfit Southampton and has impressed with the Saints, leaving Preston people questioning the decision of Irvine’s to let him go.
But the Lilywhites boss believes he was right to let the former Oldham man develop his game further at another club.
"Neal needed to go out on loan,” Irvine told the Lancashire Evening Post.
"He missed all of last season through injury and when I looked at him during pre-season training I didn't think he was quite ready for our team.
"There were two choices, the first was for him to remain here, work with him on the training ground and see if a chance arose in our team.
"The other was to give him the opportunity to go on loan to a very good club just one division below us.
"He'll come back to us in January and hopefully be close to getting in our team."