Wednesday 19 June 2019

'You want to test yourself against these teams' - Egan on song ahead of Premier adventure

John Egan is unsure how Mick McCarthy feels about him but he is hopeful that a bright international future lies ahead. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
John Egan is unsure how Mick McCarthy feels about him but he is hopeful that a bright international future lies ahead. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The high point of the celebrations at Sheffield United's promotion party were influenced by their Irish centre-half John Egan watching a viral clip of the Letterkenny IT GAA team toasting their own success.

Most sporting observers are now familiar with the 'Allez Allez Allez' chant that has swept Europe and crossed codes.

Liverpool fans put their own lyrics to the old Italian disco hit on their run to the Champions League final last year, and fans of other clubs have also put their own slant on it.

Last February, Letterkenny won the Trench Cup and one of their players, Ultan Doherty, coined his own version which paid tribute to his victorious team-mates. Egan saw the clip and a seed was planted.

"They were at the back of the bus belting it out," he explained yesterday, ahead of another double training session with the Ireland squad at the Campus in Quinta Do Lago. "And I just thought it would be class if we went up and we had one.

"I was with my friend Anthony Forde - who plays for Rotherham - and I don't know how I came up with them but I just came up with lyrics and he was like, 'Yeah, you've got to sing that if you go up.'"

When the underdogs successfully booked their place in the top flight, Egan grabbed the microphone at their end-of-year awards and belted out his twist. The room exploded.

"It was meant to be a bit of craic and someone obviously videoed it and it went viral," he says, before adding that the requests for a repeat version have now begun to tire him out.

The most popular verse centred around the manager Chris Wilder sticking a paper on the wall of the dressing room. Egan's take was snappy.

"He stuck a paper on the wall

They called us journeymen

Now we're going on a journey

To the f*****g Prem"

The cheer summed up how it struck a chord with everyone familiar with the Sheffield United story.

While the Championship is a monied league, Wilder has shopped wisely and targeted strong personalities that fitted into his group and style.

That includes Egan, the son of the late Kerry GAA great of the same name, as he has negotiated the lower leagues on his way to this career highlight.

"Sheffield United's squad is full of players who've played in League One, even League Two. There is nothing wrong with playing in League One or League Two," he says.

"But it shows you the quality is there in them leagues. We've players like 'Didzy' (David McGoldrick) who has obviously played Championship most of his career.

"Didzy came to us on trial because the Ipswich manager didn't fancy him or whatever and he's gone on to be our player of the season in a promotion-winning campaign.

"You just need to be given a chance in the right team. I think a lot of us, we've come that route and we've come into an environment and a team we can play our best football in."

Egan endured knockbacks with a broken leg suffered on loan stalling his progress at Sunderland and he made his way to Bramall Lane via Gillingham and Brentford.

"When you move over at 16, you're just dying to get involved with the first team," continues the Corkman.

"You come out of the youth team and you are wondering can you make the bench.

"But it's very hard, especially in relegation battles, to throw in young centre-halves

"I knew I had to play games, I went to Gillingham and have played regular games and been on an upward curve ever since."

After grafting his way through 46-game seasons at Football League level, he's now moving into elite company. It's put to him that Watford's FA Cup final drubbing at the hands of Manchester City could be an ominous sign of what's to come.

"I wouldn't say it's scary," he counters.

"It's more excitement. You want to test yourself against these teams. That's what football is all about.

"I think nowadays, it's really hard to go straight into a Premier League team without having the experience of games behind you.

"I've loved every minute of my journey. Yes, there were setbacks. I've always believed in my ability and that I could get to the top.

"It's been good so far and I still have a good bit to go."

The next challenge is to break into Mick McCarthy's Irish team. Egan is knocking on the door, although McCarthy does favour a back four at the moment whereas the Corkman has settled into a back three with his club.

"I played in a back four all my career until last season. And you know I've got full belief that if I get a chance, I'll take it."

He's unsure of how McCarthy feels about him. The first time they met was actually when Egan was at Brentford and the manager was with Ipswich.

Egan scored twice but made a point of finding McCarthy for a handshake afterwards.

"He's an Irish legend," he explained, "I made sure I shook his hand."

Whatever happens in this Irish gathering in Portugal, a summer of excitement and anticipation lies ahead.

Irish Independent

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