John Egan: Only fine margins hindering Ireland progress

“We played well on Saturday but we have to get the results to go with it."
John Egan: Only fine margins hindering Ireland progress

 John Egan

Fine margins are preventing Ireland matching their performances with results, according to John Egan.

The Corkman donned the armband on just his 27th cap for the trip to Scotland on Saturday, when a reversal of Ireland’s halftime lead resulted in a 2-1 defeat, the 11th of Stephen Kenny’s two-year reign.

Somehow clawing first place in their Uefa Nations League group was vanquished before kick-off at Hampden Park due to Ukraine’s humbling of Armenia and the runners-up berth is out of reach following Scotland’s revenge mission in Glasgow.

A confirmed third seeding in the Euro 2024 draw in Frankfurt on October 9 leaves open the prospects of landing a disastrous draw, heightened by England and France dropping into the second pot. Qualification for Germany is essential to keep Kenny in his job.

At 29, and with the likes of Séamus Coleman, Shane Duffy and Jeff Hendrick no longer starters, Egan is one of the elder statesmen of that project.

The unit Kenny is fusing from youth and experience couldn’t repel the second-half Scottish siege in the hostile surrounds of heaving Hampden, succumbing to Ryan Christie’s winner from the spot with nine minutes left.

It left Ireland both empty-handed and empty of valid excuses following a clear week of build-up alien to a Scottish side nursing the exertions of Wednesday’s 3-0 triumph over Ukraine.

Slipping up again on Tuesday when they conclude the series at home to Armenia, ranked 92nd in the world, is incomprehensible, for it would reactivate doubts over Stephen Kenny’s job.

“As a team we set high standards,” explained Egan, who led by example in volleying Ireland ahead on 18 minutes.

“We played well on Saturday but we have to get the results to go with it. Scotland edged it but we did more than enough to get a draw.

“By taking the lead, we quietened the crowd. I don't think the ability is in question, nor are the performances.

“It's just the fine margins in football. Scotland got the call with a penalty that won them the game, which is a tough one to take.” 

Egan was the centrepoint of a defence that featured Dara O’Shea to his left and Nathan Collins on his right. Shane Duffy, a player he’d flanked through the underage ranks till seniors, was demoted to the bench due to his inability to gain minutes on loan thus far this season on loan at Fulham from Brighton and Hove Albion.

Bar injury, that trio is unlikely to change for the visit of the minnows, a must-win fixture to see out the campaign with seven points from six outings.

“A lot of people try to think negatively but I am very positive,” affirmed Sheffield United regular Egan.

“I am sure the lads are all chomping at the bit to put the Scotland result right on Tuesday.

“Nathan has been brilliant; he’s got a really good attitude, a big player for us and for Wolves, someone with plenty of confidence.

“It's hard to believe he's only 21 and the future is really bright for him.

“We want to win every game we play. Saturday was disappointing but you have to brush yourself down, analyse the game, take the positives and kick on Tuesday.” 

Kenny will have at least one change to make after Josh Cullen’s third booking of the campaign triggered a one-match suspension. The squad are due to have their pre-match training session at Lansdowne Road on Monday at 12pm.

Tickets sold for Tuesday’s game, which kicks off at 7.45pm, had already reached 44,000 by last Friday, revealed Kenny.

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