herald

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Egan eager for Ireland call-up

In-form John eyes senior progress as his next step

Ireland Under-21 defender John Egan has been in fine form for Gillingham (SPORTSFILE)
Ireland Under-21 defender John Egan has been in fine form for Gillingham (SPORTSFILE)

A trip to London last weekend to collect a prestigious award led to a meeting with Martin O'Neill for young Irish defender John Egan.

But the 23-year-old, starring for Gillingham in England's third tier, hopes to see a lot more of O'Neill as Egan says that winning a place in the Ireland senior squad, having proved his worth in the U21s, is a definite goal for the short-term.

Egan was brought to London for Sunday as he was named on the League One team of the year at the PFA awards, a rare honour for an Irishman (only Alan Judge and JJ O'Toole made the divisional teams) and O'Neill took the time to speak to Cork native Egan, the pair having worked together at Sunderland where Egan's progress was blocked by a broken leg.

"Me and Martin had a small chat at the awards, obviously I knew him from Sunderland," Egan told The Herald, the defender and his Gillingham mates in the closing stages of a season which they hope will lead to promotion.

"We didn't speak for long, it was more a catch-up really, but hopefully if I am playing at a higher level next season I can do something with Ireland as the senior squad is definitely a goal of mine.

"I won't worry about it too much as it's out of my hands, it's the manager's call on who gets into the squad.

"Every man in Ireland grows up dreaming of playing for your country, I have come up through the ranks and played at every level bar senior,. so if I am playing well next season on a big stage I see no reason why I can't even aim for the squad at least," added the ex-U21 cap.

"I know a lot of the squad already, I played underage with the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady, Matt Doherty was in the last squad so we have a good pool of players coming through now, the next campaign is a chance for some of us to break through. I believe in my ability and I hope I can break through."

Egan has big ambitions and hopes to ease Gillingham into the playoffs, though they have work to do in their last two games to make it. The club turned down a bid from Brentford in the January transfer window and, as he's out of contract at the end of the season, chances are that Egan will be in the Championship at least even if his club aren't.

"There was a bit of interest in January but I don't think it went further than interest. I am not worrying about that now, I know that if my football is good enough on the pitch, everything else will take care of itself," he says.

"We have at least two games left, hopefully more in the play-offs, I am just focusing on that for now and then I'll have a decision to make in the summer. It would be an achievement for us to make the play-offs so that has to be the aim. I am playing for Gillingham now in League One and I am enjoying it but the aim is to play at as high a level as I can, I feel I can finish well with Gillingam and see where my form takes me."

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