Republic of Ireland: John Egan retains World Cup hopes despite side's dismal start to qualifying

Republic of Ireland lost to Serbia and Luxembourg in their opening World Cup qualifiers in March; side are yet to win in 11 games under manager Stephen Kenny; John Egan in squad for this month's friendlies against Andorra and Hungary

John Egan (PA)
Image: John Egan's Republic of Ireland have no points from their opening two World Cup qualifiers

John Egan is refusing to give up on his World Cup dream despite the Republic of Ireland's dismal start to the new qualifying campaign.

Back-to-back defeats by Serbia and, ignominiously, Luxembourg in March ensured Ireland's bid to make it to the finals in Qatar was launched in the most disappointing of fashions, and with a tough triple-header against Portugal, Azerbaijan and the Serbians to come in September, their task will not become any easier.

However, while acknowledging that they are now outsiders to qualify, Sheffield United defender Egan is in no mood to throw in the towel having already had to suffer the bitter taste of relegation from the Premier League with his club.

The 28-year-old said: "Obviously it was far from the start that we wanted, but we are still only two games in and anything can happen.

"It's going to be tough, there's no doubt about that. We're definitely outsiders now, but all we can do is to look to the next game and try to get a result.

Stephen Kenny
Image: Stephen Kenny is yet to win in 11 games as Ireland manager

"You never know - if you get a bit of momentum, you never know. For me, it's all about the next game.

"At the end of the day, it's a results business, we know that. We want to win games, we want to give the country a team that they are proud to support and proud to watch."

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Those two defeats took Stephen Kenny's wait for a first win to 11 games, a record which has piled pressure on the manager and his players.

Kenny has been plagued by selection problems since replacing Mick McCarthy at the helm last year, with injuries and coronavirus protocols having forced him to repeatedly re-draw his plans, no more significantly so than ahead of the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final clash with Slovakia.

Egan, firmly established in the manager's strongest defensive line-up, has been frustrated by the number of games he has had to miss and is desperate to make up for lost time.

Asked how he had coped with watching from afar, he said: "It's been tough. I played the Slovakia game and then I was a close contact, so it was really hard to miss out on games even though I didn't have Covid. I felt it was just pointless missing out on two caps.

"Then in the following month against England, I got concussed. Then the last time, I was injured, so I've been unlucky in that sense with Ireland.

Image: Peterborough's Sam Szmodics is one of several uncapped players in Ireland's squad for this month's friendlies

"I have not missed too many club games, but with Ireland, I seemed to have missed a good few. It's horrible when you are sitting at home watching the games and wishing that you could be out there and being with the lads in the squad.

"Yes, it's been tough, but it's football. Sometimes things like that happen."

Egan will hope to rekindle his international career in earnest in Thursday's friendly clash with Andorra and the trip to Hungary which follows five days later.

Should he do so, he could find himself lining up alongside yet more debutants with Kenny having drafted the uncapped Andrew Omobamidele, Jamie McGrath, Daniel Mandroiu, Sam Szmodics and Chiedozie Ogbene into his latest squad, and he has urged the potential newcomers to grasp their chance.

The defender said: "You could be 18 or 32 when you get your chance. It's all about taking that chance and trying to enjoy it as well."

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