John Egan: GAA never far from the mind of the Sheffield United star

John Egan’s rise through the ranks of professional football in England has seen him established as one of the first names on the team sheet for Sheffield United.

But despite his success on the soccer field, Gaelic games are never far from the Cork native’s mind.

The 28-year-old comes from GAA royalty, with his father, the late John senior a multiple All-Ireland and All-Star winner with Kerry.

And anytime Egan is home on Lee-side, he takes the opportunity to revisit his old school and GAA club.

“When I’m at home, I like going up to the GAA club to meet up with my old buddies who I used to play with. I love pucking around, love kicking around,” he explained on Inside The Game.

“And obviously I get on really well with Cubby (Brian Cuthbert), so if I can nip up to the school to see him and see the young lads for an hour or two, it’s always good.

“I could sit there and talk about Cubby for ages, for hours. The stories he has about himself and my dad. My dad obviously coached him for Bishopstown, so I like hearing those stories.

“It’s nice to go back to the school as well, because I remember when I was in school back in the day you might see Cork players coming in with the cups, or Cork City players coming in when they were going well. So it’s nice to go back and see the young lads as well. I just enjoy it.”

And when he is England, Egan takes every opportunity to spread the GAA gospel.

“They (Sheffield United players) wouldn’t know too much about it,” he laughed.

“But I have the hurleys in the car. So sometimes me and Enda [Stevens] would be pucking around. Enda is actually a very handy hurler, believe it or not! The lads would have a go, they would be throwing it up like a golf grip, so it is funny looking at them. But a few of them pick it up quite quickly.

“We’ve a lad – George Baldock, a right-back, and he picked it up straight away. He was class to be fair.

“It’s funny showing them videos, I remember showing them a video to one lad at Sunderland when I was younger, I showed a lad a video, ‘this is hurling. We play this in Ireland’. His first question was, ‘what’s the death total in this like?’

“It’s not that dangerous! They couldn’t believe it, fellas running around with sticks, bating into each other and that!

“It’s cool when you show them how to play it, because it’s fun to watch.”

Despite hailing from the Rebel County, Egan supports Kerry in Gaelic football due to his heritage. And he will be tuning in on Sunday when the Kingdom travel to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Munster semi-final.

“It will be a tight game,” he predicts.

“Obviously Kerry were unlucky not to win the All-Ireland last year. If they kick on this year, I expect them to be in the mix at the end of the year if they play to their max. I’ve got to fancy Kerry Sunday, but it will be tight. I think Cork will quietly fancy themselves as well.

“The knockout factor is huge. Cork won’t be going there expecting to lose. Cork people in general are quite confident, so I think we’re in for a humdinger of a game. Both teams will go at it.

“Cork are a dangerous side coming in with nothing to lose, because the outside perception is Kerry are probably going to come down to win. It’s going to be a really interesting game, I really looking forward to watching it, but hopefully Kerry can get over the line.”

And after playing in the Premier League behind-closed-doors in recent months, the Ireland international star knows that form can’t always be relied upon in the absence of supporters.

“Just mentally, trying to keep your intensity when there’s no fans is probably the key,” he explained.

“Especially when you’re playing at home, you always thrive off the buzz of the fans. You hear them shouting, and they unsettle the opposition and stuff. But that’s not there now, and that’s probably why you’re seeing all the away wins in the season.

“You shout at someone and you can hear the echo for two seconds. It’s really strange at the start.

“It will definitely make a difference in the GAA this year. You might have players who all of a sudden, they don’t think about the fans and they can just play with freedom. I think you might see a few surprise results because of that. Some teams might thrive off it. Some teams might go the other way. It’s fascinating, and I’m sure it will be a good championship.”

You can watch the full discussion with John Egan in the video at the top of this article.

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