herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Challenge remains for boys to come in from the fringe

John Egan. Pic: Sportsfile
John Egan. Pic: Sportsfile

Because of injury, fatigue and other factors a bunch of people who are usually participants were mere spectators for Tuesday's international friendly against Iceland.

But while some players came onto the stage with Ireland, either as debutants (John Egan, Conor Hourihane, Andy Boyle, Daryl Horgan) or as previously-capped men in for a rare outting (Stephen Gleeson, Jonny Hayes, Eunan O'Kane, Kevin Doyle, Keiren Westwood, Alex Pearce), those who were in the shadows and on the fringes last week all know they have work to do, a lot of work to do, before they can become regulars and replace the likes of Jon Walters, Shane Duffy, Glenn Whelan and Wes Hoolahan.

Not all of those who failed to impress over the international week are fringe players, as Jeff Hendrick was way below par in his two outings, Aiden McGeady didn't match his recent Preston displays in the Iceland game, Robbie Brady admitted that he himself was below par and question marks remain over Cyrus Christie's potential to fill in for Seamus Coleman.

John Egan, handed a debut in defence, knows that he has work to do before he can become a regular in the squad, let alone the team with Ireland.

"The battle is to get into the squad," Egan told The Herald. "It was great to get in this time but the hard bit will be to get into future squads and get into the team again. I have full belief in my ability so I hope to keep impressing the manager and win more caps."

Stephen Gleeson. Pic: Getty
Stephen Gleeson. Pic: Getty

So how does he do that? "I take every day as it comes, if my form merits a call-up again I know where it can take me, I will work hard to make that happen, keep improving and make it into future squads," he says, admitting that he "could have done better" against Iceland.

For Egan it was his first time in the squad and thus a first cap but for Stephen Gleeson, it was a renewal of his international career, his third cap coming a full 10 years after his previous outing, under Steve Staunton in the USA.

The midfield area is rather clogged with Ireland though the 28-year-old is experienced enough to know that international recognition won't come if he's not doing well for his club, and having been dropped for the last six games by Birmingham City, that's a concern.

"I don't know what I have to do to get back into the squad, but the first thing I need to do is get into the side at Birmingham City. I haven't played in the last six games and that's been really frustrating, that's why the call-up last Saturday was such a surprise as I hadn't been in with the club side, so any time I get an opportunity I have to take it," Gleeson told The Herald.

"It won't be another 10 years before my next cap, I don't think I will be able to get around the pitch when I'm 38. Hopefully I won't have to wait as long for the next one but if Iceland turns out to be my last cap, it will have been an unbelievable experience.

"I wasn't expecting it, I was in Thomasland in Birmingham on Saturday morning with my two sons when I got the call. The World Cup is coming and it's a challenge to get into the side. I am a Dublin lad so any opportunity you get to represent your country is an honour, I have done it a few times now but to play at home was amazing."

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