Sheffield United: John Egan on being named captain of Ireland, his hopes for the season and receiving advice from mum
“She’s old school, she's proud of her country and she gets a bit emotional,” John Egan says, describing how his mother reacts whenever he plays for the Republic of Ireland.
But the Sheffield United defender, who added two more caps to his collection during the recent international break, admits she doesn’t just cheer him on from the sidelines. Whether he likes it or not Mary, who used to be a pretty formidable player herself, is also a source of footballing advice.
“Yeah, she does give me her thoughts on my performances,” Egan laughs. “But probably depending on the result. I’m usually in a pretty foul mood if we lose so, when that happens, I might not really want to hear it. But you always listen to your mum don’t you? And I suppose mine is more qualified than most to tell me what she thinks.”
The son of a former League of Ireland winner and Gaelic football legend - his late father John, whose wife lifted the title with Cork Rangers, is regarded as one of the Emerald Isle’s greatest ever sportsmen - Egan added another chapter to the family’s already remarkable story in Azerbaijan last weekend. After being named in Stephen Kenny’s starting eleven for the World Cup qualifier, the 28-year-old discovered he would also be wearing the captain’s armband having arrived at the stadium.
Cue a quick telephone call home to Mary, who was in the crowd when her son and his team mates demolished Qatar during a friendly in Dublin three days later.
“You get an inkling but you don’t really know until the team is picked,” Egan says, describing the moment he realised he would be leading his country out. “It was when I got to the ground, went inside the dressing room and saw the armband in my place - that’s the first time I really knew.
“It’s a special feeling, playing for your country. Captaining it? Being such a proud Irishman myself it doesn’t get any better. You feel a responsibility, because it’s the pinnacle of your career. Mum was up in Dublin when we came back, so that was great too.”
After helping Ireland keep clean sheets in those back to back wins, Egan is now hoping the form he and his compatriot Conor Hourihane displayed during the 3-0 win in Baku and 4-0 triumph over Felix Sanchez’s side translates into another positive performance when United return to action with a game against Stoke City tomorrow. Despite being 14th in the table, nine points behind the visitors from Staffordshire, Egan is confident they can mount a challenge for promotion after recovering from the hangover of last season’s relegation from the Premier League.
“Two positive results for Ireland and two really positive performances, now we want to carry that on,” Egan admits, hailing the impact Slavisa Jokanovic has made since being appointed manager last summer. “We want to bring that form with Ireland to Sheffield United and put it into the league, because the ability, belief and manager is there.”