Monday 16 September 2019

I never stopped believing I'd make it, insists Egan as another cap looms

John Egan is benefiting from playing top-flight football (Mike Egerton/PA)
John Egan is benefiting from playing top-flight football (Mike Egerton/PA)

Aidan Fitzmaurice

He is the son of an all-time Kerry great, sitting in Croke Park beside a pal who is a recent winner of an All-Ireland medal with the county.

But as John Egan watched Kerry play out that thrilling draw with Dublin two weeks ago, with Barry-John Keane by his side, there was no sense of missed opportunity or regret that Egan did not have the option to play in front of 82,000+ people in a game which held the attention of a nation, a match on another level, in terms of intensity, compared to a soccer friendly. Against Bulgaria.

"Obviously the GAA is great, but I suppose inter-county is only great when you're winning.

"So around those days, when Kerry won an All-Ireland or two, you'd think about it now and again," says the defender, whose father, also John, won six All-Irelands.

"But I'd never ever change my mind. Every club I've been at I've enjoyed every minute of it, be it Southend or Gillingham in League One or League Two or Sheffield United in the Premier League, and I wouldn't change it for the world."

There is little reason for Egan to demand change now. At 26 he is coming into his prime. He's an established member of a Sheffield United side which has adapted well to the rigours of Premier League football, and with Mick McCarthy likely to rest players for tomorrow's friendly at home to Bulgaria, Egan should win his fifth cap.

Debut

Ireland have played 22 games since his debut, against Iceland in 2017, and his record of just three subsequent appearances in that time shows how hard it's been to get a look in. But his status as a Premier League player now, and not just that but a regular in a very good Blades team, enhances his status.

He says a spell at Sunderland at the start of his career gave him an idea of what the Premier League was like and in the five years since he left Sunderland, the top flight was always his goal, even a broken leg not enough to dampen his desire.

"When you do go through setbacks it does make you stronger. Conor Hourihane is the same, he dropped down the leagues and made his way back up," Egan reflected.

"If you believe in yourself, that you can be the player you believe you can be, then you can do it. That's having the mental state to be disciplined and to really believe in something.

"I believed in myself probably more than anyone growing up. Even when I broke my leg and even when I was released by Sunderland, I still believed that I was going to play in the Premier League.

"Maybe if I said it to someone at the time they would have laughed at me . But I just had that mentality that I was going to try at the very minimum to keep trying to make myself a better player."

Irish Independent

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