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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 20 September, 2019
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Premier League star John Egan was gripped by ‘unbelievable’ All-Ireland final

The 26-year-old centre-back was cheering on Kerry in last weekend’s thriller against Dublin.

John Egan pictured at today's press conference.
John Egan pictured at today's press conference.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRISH INTERNATIONAL JOHN Egan took time out from his busy schedule to attend last Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC final between Dublin and Kerry.

The defender, who will be hoping to earn his third international cap in a friendly against Bulgaria on Tuesday night, has plenty of GAA connections.

The player’s late father is Kerry GAA legend John Egan Sr, who won six All-Irelands and nine Munster Championships during his time as a player.

Born and raised in Cork, the 26-year-old has split allegiances between the two sides, tending to cheer for his home county in hurling and Kerry in football. He is also friendly with a number of Cork hurlers, including childhood pal Damien Cahalane.

I was brought up in a Kerry jersey, going to All-Irelands when Kerry were winning, so it was easy to follow Kerry,” he told The42 in 2016. “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.”

And last Sunday was another match that Egan was fortunate enough to attain a ticket for, as a thrilling contest saw Dublin and Kerry draw after registering 1-16 apiece.

Having played the full 90 minutes and helped his Sheffield United side earn a creditable 2-2 draw with Chelsea on the Saturday, Egan flew back to Dublin in time to attend the Croke Park fixture the following day.

“It was unbelievable,” he says. “I got to go to the first one — I probably won’t be able to go to the second one, but it’s always a great day, the All-Ireland final.”

Indeed, the replay between Kerry and Dublin on Saturday takes place the same day as Sheffield United host Southampton in the Premier League.

With Egan’s match kicking off at 3pm and a 6pm throw-in for Croke Park, the defender will need to make a quick dash home to watch the GAA game on TV.

“We play Southampton at the same time, so that’s my priority,” he adds. “I’ll get to watch it after — it’s on an hour or two after the game, so I’ll get to watch it probably in the house or something.”

For now though, Egan’s focus is on Ireland and the match against Bulgaria at the Aviva on Tuesday evening. One of four Sheffield United players in the squad, he was especially pleased for David McGoldrick on Friday night, as the 31-year-old striker scored his first goal at international level, in the process helping his side earn a crucial 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

Everyone was delighted that ‘Didsy’ was the man to pop up. He’s put in some really good shifts the last few games and the goals just haven’t come. So it’s brilliant that Didzy’s got off the mark now. In the dressing room, after you get a late goal that gets you something from the game, it’s always brilliant.” 

Away from Ireland, Egan is enjoying life with Sheffield United in his debut Premier League season.

After two full seasons in League One, three campaigns in the Championship and a couple of short loan stints further down the ladder in League Two, Egan has had to work hard to achieve his dream of playing top-flight football.

“I suppose the Championship is really physically demanding, playing every Saturday and Tuesday. I think the Premier League is more mentally demanding. You come up against players — you give them one chance, they’re going to take it. Especially in my position, you’re going to have to be focused for every second of the game, because as soon as you allow a player of that calibre in on goal, it’s going to be a goal.

“We’ve taken to [the Premier League] quite well, personally I feel like my performances have been good. I’ve really enjoyed the step up. I’m trying to embrace it and really have a good few games and good season now and show that I belong.”

Five years on from his release by then-Premier League outfit Sunderland amid a horrific spell that saw him suffer a broken leg, Egan says he was always optimistic about playing at the top level again.

“Obviously, you have doubts, especially when you pick up a bad injury. I think the belief was always there, and you have to go out and try to make a name for yourself

“If you keep doing well, you’ll get noticed and you’ll get to move up the ladder. And I think it’s just testament to your character really if you can bounce back from these setbacks.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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