Sheffield United: John Egan hopes to write another great chapter in his family's remarkable sporting history

The family name was already etched into Irish sporting history thanks to his parents' mastery of their respective disciplines.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 10:39 pm
John Egan: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But tomorrow's Euro 2020 qualifier in Georgia, which could leave Mick McCarthy's side on the brink of reaching next year's finals, potentially marks the start of another long chapter in what has been a remarkable athletic dynasty.

The match, at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in the centre of Tblisi, is expected to see John Egan win his sixth Republic of Ireland cap. But with Richard Keogh out for the foreseeable with a serious injury, that number will grow exponentially if he replicates the form which has made him almost indispensable for Sheffield United. Certainly Chris Wilder, the manager responsible for bringing Egan to Bramall Lane, believes the visit to the Caucasus represents a chance for the centre-half to cement his place at the heart of McCarthy's defence.

"I think John has been pushing for quite a while in terms of his performances," Wilder said. "But with the injuries to one and maybe two, he'll probably be in.

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"Listen, we all know what he's capable of. Mick wouldn't have him there otherwise. He (McCarthy) will have his own ideas, he's great by the way, but looking in from the outside it would seem there's an obvious route in there."

With Keogh set to miss the rest of the season because of a badly damaged knee - the 33-year-old was hurt in a car crash involving two of his Derby County team mates - Egan appears the obvious choice to partner Brighton's Shane Duffy. But if, as expected, McCarthy calls upon his services, the Group D tie will test the concentration levels and organisational skills which have made him a key member of United's Premier League squad. Wing-back Enda Stevens, his colleague for both club and country, is suspended meaning Ireland's back four is likely to be much changed from the one which drew with Switzerland last month.

Stevens, who will be available for Tuesday's return in Geneva, believes the similarities between Wilder and McCarthy will help his compatriot and good friend adjust.

"The togetherness at Ireland is there," he said. "We are not really individuals. We need the individual brilliance on the pitch and we have that here (at United) and with Ireland. But in terms of egos, there are no big ones, it is stripped away if you do have them. It is just lads wanting to work together and succeed. It can be a powerful thing."

"We've got got good leaders in both squads who lead by example," he added. "With Ireland, you have Seamus Coleman, here we have got Billy (Sharp) and Oli Norwood. That's the main thing, that togetherness. Good players who are ready to dig in for each other."

Egan, whose father John was a Gaelic football legend and mother Mary an accomplished footballer in her own right, captained Ireland during their recent friendly with Bulgaria as McCarthy began preparing for the Georgia clash. Signed from Brentford at the beginning of last season, he made 45 outings as United went on to secure promotion from the Championship and has been an ever-present in the top-flight.

Callum Robinson completes the trio of United players at McCarthy's disposal but another, David McGoldrick, has been ruled-out by injury. Wilder had granted the centre-forward permission to try and prove his fitness despite missing United's game against Watford earlier this month.