TODAY MARKED A proud moment for John Egan.
Thanks to his performances in a Brentford shirt this season, the 24-year-old was included in the Ireland senior squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Wales and the friendly against Iceland next Tuesday.
The centre-half took part in his first session at the FAI’s National Training Centre this morning, where he chatted to fellow Corkonians David Meyler and Conor Hourihane before mixing with the rest of his new team-mates.
“I think it’s a lot easier when you come in and you know a few of the lads,” Egan said.
“I’ve been trying to get to know some of the others but quite a few I’ve known for a long time and that makes it that little bit easier. I’m really looking forward this week to getting on the training pitch and earning the respect of my team-mates.”
The call-up is the latest in a long list of sporting achievements for the Egan family. Mother Mary won a League of Ireland medal with Cork Rangers, while father, John senior, was a legendary Kerry footballer — claiming six senior All-Irelands, nine Munster titles and five All-Stars.
Tragically, he died in 2012 at the age of 59 following heart surgery.
“It’s great for the family,” added John junior, who admits he would love to be able to share the news with his late dad.
It’s times like this when you’re getting called up to the national team you wish he was around but for my mam and my sister, cousins and that, they’re all over the moon and to get this bit of recognition as it shows that you’re doing something right.
“If your performances are good the recognition will follow.”
Egan has had to bounce back from a couple of setbacks before receiving international recognition.
Having joined Sunderland’s academy as a youngster, he made three first-team appearances for the Black Cats — who were then managed by Martin O’Neill — during their 2012 pre-season tour to Asia.
However, in November of that year, Egan suffered a fractured right tibia and fibula while on loan with Bradford City.
“I went over to Sunderland at a young age and when you get to around 19 or 20, it’s an age when you’re looking to break through,” he explains. “I was unfortunate to have a bad leg break and that set me back a year.
“Ever since then I’ve been trying to get back on an upward curve. I went to Gillingham for two years and played a lot of games. Then I moved to Brentford in the summer and it’s all gone well so far.
It’s been a bit of a long journey I suppose, a few setbacks along the way but I just keep the head down and keep working hard to get on the pitch and show what you’re about.”
During his rehabilitation, Egan looked up to former Sunderland team-mate Meyler — who had worked his way back to full fitness from two cruciate ligament injuries.
“Just seeing his attitude coming back twice from really bad injuries put my mind at ease knowing I would get the best physio care when I did mind,” he remembers.
“To be fair to Meyler, he helped me a lot with the rehab. So yeah, when you see someone come back from that injury you know it’s a long road but that it can be done.”
With 33 Championship appearances and four goals for the Bees this season, Egan feels in good form and he will be prepared if O’Neill opts to hand him a senior international debut over the next week.
That is more likely to come against Iceland than Wales but with defenders Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark and Paul McShane all missing, he will be eager to impress in case the injury crisis worsens.
“My number one aim is to take it day-by-day, I can’t really expect too much,” said Egan. “It’s my first call-up but if I’m called upon in either game I’ll be ready to go.”
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