John Egan pushes Eire to enhance
John Egan, number five, leads the Republic of Ireland in Portugal
John Egan believes the Republic of Ireland has more to come after Cristiano Ronaldo’s persistent brilliance sentenced them to a heartbreaking loss in World Cup qualifiers.
Egan’s header in the first half had led Ireland to what was arguably the biggest victory in history within a minute at the Estadio Algarve on Wednesday evening, when Ronaldo, who had previously saved his penalty from Gavin Bazunu, equalized and then won the game until time.
Losing in Faro means Stephen Kenny’s men still have one point left after three games in the season, but amid bitter disappointment it was recognized that they would face Azerbaijan on Saturday and Serbia’s visit to Dublin three days later be able to build something.
Egan said: “We still have one game. It’s a quick turnaround and we have to dust off and build on it quickly.
“We had a really good camp in the summer, some really good performances and we backed that up with a really good performance.
“We didn’t get the result, which is obviously disappointing with the way the game went, but we can keep building, we can keep improving and I’m sure there will be a lot more of us to come.”
Ronaldo equalized with a header in the 89th minute and repeated the dose for six minutes in stoppage time to get the points.
Former U21 coach Kenny has revamped the roster he inherited from Mick McCarthy and there have been encouraging appearances from players old and new in Faro.
Egan and Shane Duffy at the back limited Ronaldo well for much of the competition and Norwich youngster Andrew Omobamidele looked not out of place as he hit the deep end after Dara O’Shea’s injury.
Josh Cullen and Jamie McGrath thrived in midfield, while front two Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah became increasingly troubled as Ireland hit their hosts on the counter.
Egan said: “We were really, really good in the first half and gave them a lot of problems on the counterattack and defended really well. Of course you sag a bit in the course of the game, but we still felt comfortable.
“We played really well, it’s really hard to take, but we just have to get the positive out of it. We came to a world-class team that became European champions not so long ago, that has some world-class players and that they did a really good job. There are many positive things to report. “
For Egan it was also the personal milestone of a first international goal, a success that his mother Mary, his sister Maureen and his fiancée Laura witnessed among the spectators.
The Sheffield United defender said: “You managed to get in, my mother, my sister and my fiancée. It was really fun, I saw my mom as soon as I scored a goal. It was a special moment. “