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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Gillingham’s John Egan on his GAA roots and leaving Ireland as a teenager

The former Irish underage international also discusses his friendship with Cork hurler Damien Cahalane.

John Egan currently plays for Gillingham and has represented Ireland at underage level.
John Egan currently plays for Gillingham and has represented Ireland at underage level.
Image: Cathal Noonan

SPORT HAS PLAYED an integral role in the life of Gillingham footballer John Egan.

His father, the late John Egan Senior, is a Kerry GAA legend, having won six All-Irelands and nine Munster Championships during almost a decade spent representing the county.

In addition, his mother won a League of Ireland medal with Cork Rangers and also represented Kerry in camogie.

Growing up in Bishopstown, Egan tried his hand at soccer, GAA and basketball as a youngster. It was Egan’s father, however, who persuaded him to choose professional football ahead of his other talents.

“My Dad won everything there was in GAA and once he came over to Sunderland and saw the facilities, he was almost a bit jealous that he couldn’t do it himself,” Egan tells The42.

He also wanted me to be a special sportsperson and he was really pointing me in the direction of Sunderland. When we went over, he couldn’t believe the facilities.

“It was a hard decision to make, leaving your family and leaving school and your mum and everything, not having that family support behind me.

“But my family were all behind me 100%, and once the education was sorted out, it was a no-brainer.”

Countless Irish footballers have spoken of the difficulty of moving to England at a young age. However, while Egan was still a teenager when he joined the Black Cats from local side Greenwood FC in 2009, the defender says he never seriously suffered from homesickness.

To be honest, no (I didn’t). Time just started to fly because I was enjoying it so much. I had my family, friends and girlfriend coming over to me the last few years. Even at the start, I was going home every few months. It just kind of flew and I was enjoying it a lot.

“Obviously, you’d have your bad days when you were younger, but I can’t say that I ever thought about going home.”

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And does the 23-year-old defender still hang out with his former GAA teammates on his sporadic trips home to Ireland?

“I would, yeah. I’m always up and down to the club in the summer and this summer will be no different. Hopefully, I’ll take in a couple of Championship games if they’re on when I’m around. I’ll be up to the club, pucking around, kicking it around, everything.”

In addition, while his father was a legend of Kerry GAA, Egan was born and raised in Cork, so his allegiances are split between the two counties.

I was brought up in a Kerry jersey, going to All-Irelands when Kerry were winning, so it was easy to follow Kerry, but I used to always get a lot of stick at school for wearing a Kerry jersey. In the football, I’m Kerry, I was brought up to support Kerry, and I’ve been to the last couple of All-Irelands. I’ve probably lost count of how many All-Irelands I’ve been to down the years.

“But in the hurling, I like to see Cork do well.”

And the GAA connections do not end there. Egan remains close with childhood friend and current Cork GAA star Damien Cahalane.

“Damo’s a good buddy of mine,” he says. “We grew up together in the same school and played in the same soccer team.

I’ll spend quite a lot of time with him in the summer as well. I know a few of the other (Cork) lads too, but Damo would be one of my close pals. Hopefully, himself and Cork can have a good summer in the hurling.

“I think Dublin have the football a bit boxed off (this year), to be honest. Hopefully, Kerry can win the football and Cork can win the hurling. It’s a bit of a long shot, but looking at what Leicester did, I might throw a tenner on it.”

Check out part one of our interview with John Egan, in which he discusses life at Gillingham, transfer speculation and his hopes of representing Ireland, here.

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Paul Fennessy

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