‘We don’t fear anyone. We’re Irish’ – John Egan’s rallying cry for French test

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, centre, with John Egan and Abbie Larkin at the launch of Circle K’s new partnership with the FAI. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Aidan Fitzmaurice

John Egan insists the fear factor will be left behind when Ireland face World Cup runners-up France in the Euro 2024 qualifiers on Monday.

Ireland go into that clash with the French on the back of a 3-2 win over Latvia, while the Irish squad await the outcome of tonight’s tussle between an injury-hit French side and a Holland squad ravaged by the effects of a virus.

In the last campaign, Ireland also faced a side who had recently won a major international trophy (Euro 2016) and had a world-famous talisman leading their line (Cristiano Ronaldo), Egan’s goal in Portugal giving them a shock before the Portuguese turned it around to win 2-1. But Portugal were held in Dublin and Egan foresees more of the same.

“As players, as a squad, we’ve a lot of belief in ourselves,” said Egan, speaking as the FAI announced Circle K as their fuel and convenience partner.

“It’s no secret who we’re coming up against. That’s just a fact. We’ve played some big teams in the past and done really well. We don’t fear anyone. We’re Irish. We’re playing at home in front of our fans. We’ve all seen big nights in the past in Dublin – and we want to go out there and give 100 per cent, get results.

“Monday night is probably the biggest test we’ve faced so far as a group. We’re really looking forward to going out there, giving our all, get a positive result to start the campaign.

“It could give us huge confidence. We’re at the start of a campaign and we want to start it on the right note.

“We all have the belief in each other that when we get it right, you know we’ve done really well against the big teams – and we want to go and take that next step and get the win.

“I treat every international as big. There is obviously a huge buzz around the place for this game, considering the calibre of opposition that we are playing.

“I suppose for us to be playing the beaten World Cup finalists on penalties, there are not many teams around that have proven to be better than them.

“So we want to test ourselves against the best. We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we have full belief in ourselves to go out and get a positive result on Monday night.”

The victory over Latvia on Wednesday was welcomed by the Irish camp but the fact remains that, again, Ireland conceded at home.

For the third home game in a row, two goals were conceded – and Ireland have just two clean sheets in the last seven games in Dublin.

So, clearly, that attacking French side will pose an even bigger threat than the Latvians, who are in the bottom ten among European nations.

“You just have to analyse games, analyse why and try to learn from it,” Egan says, when asked how lessons from the leakage of goals at home can be learned.

“We know the attacking threat that France can bring – and it’s up to us to nullify that as a team. As individuals, we know we’re going to have to be at our peak.

“And we’re going to have to focus on putting in the best performance possible.”

For Egan, Monday will be a chance to test himself, on an individual basis, once again, against Olivier Giroud as he marked him in a Sheffield United-Chelsea Premier League game. But, for Egan, the striker who stands out is home-grown teenager Evan Ferguson.

“He carries himself really well – you can see what he’s doing at club level, he’s really confident and bringing that into camp.

“He’s a big man for 18, he’s in really good form, you can see that on Wednesday night. For him to get his first international goal was a huge moment for him, and I am delighted for him,” added Egan.