herald

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Egan gets call but O'Neill likely to stand by his tried and trusted men

Brentford’s John Egan has received an Ireland call-up. Photo: Getty
Brentford’s John Egan has received an Ireland call-up. Photo: Getty

With his first-ever Ireland call up at the age of 24, John Egan is anything but an overnight success.

And patience may have to be a virtue again for the Brentford man as, even though he was included in the senior squad named yesterday by Martin O'Neill, Egan may not get to travel to Dublin for next week's World Cup qualifier at home to Wales.

But it is, at least, a step up the ladder and a foot in the door for the classy defender.

"It's not easy to get into that irish squad. I have full belief in my own ability andf if and when I am called upon I feel I could contribute, it would be a dream come true to get into that squad and win a cap," Egan told The Herald recently, before his summons from O'Neill was issued.

And O'Neill has also opened a door into the squad for another Irishman, with the Republic manager claiming that he plans to make a trip to Poland to watch Cillian Sheridan play for his club, Jagiellonia Bialystok, who are back on top of the Polish league once again, thanks in no small part to Sheridan.

O'Neill has named a 39-man squad for the games against Wales and Iceland, including Robbie Brady who is of course suspended for the qualifier, but up to 10 players from that list are likely to be cut by the time the squad arrive in Dublin on Sunday evening for the FAI International awards, the first day of training pre-Wales scheduled for next Monday.

In recent years, players like Simon Cox and Anthony Stokes had far more appearances in those provisional squads than they had caps, and those players - and their families - wondered what was the point of raising hopes of a place in the squad when it was clear the manager saw no real role for them.

Of late, players like Conor Hourihane, Matt Doherty, Adam Rooney and Anthony Pilkintgon - all in O'Neill's 39-man list - have been named in squads but their names are then not called for the flight to Dublin.

Having such a big squad, a quirk of the O'Neill regime, adds to the logistical problems for those in the FAI office and his counterpart in Serbia, Slavoljub Muslin, does things another way: last week he named his squad for Serbia's qualifier next week away to Georgia, just 23 names.

Egan may miss out, a fate also possible for Matt Doherty and Stephen Gleeson, but for Egan, being in the 39 is a start.

The Polish-based Sheridan would love that luxury as March 2011 (when he was on standby but unused against Uruguay) was the last time he had a call from the FAI. At the time Sheridan had three caps on his CV and Jon Walters had none, so things have clearly changed, but at least Sheridan's form in Poland has sparked interest again.

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