Back in the 1990s Offaly fans used to jokingly complain about 'having to go up to Croke Park again'.

The fortunes of the hurlers and footballers were such that regular trips to Dublin 3 were part of the deal of supporting the Faithful County. 

Those days are long gone and when Colin Egan steps out on to the hallowed turf this evening it will be his first appearance there since making his debut in 2011. 

The Belmont forward, who was not involved last year due to family commitments, admits that the thoughts of the Allianz League fixture against Pat Gilroy's men at Jones's Road kept the panel going through the dark months. 

Egan (c) made his debut against Dublin in 2011

"It has been a bit of an incentive throughout the winter weeks there when all the hard slogging is being done," Egan told the We are Offaly podcast

"It’s nice having that seed in the back of your head knowing that you are going to be [playing] in, I suppose from the GAA point of view, the Theatre of Dreams so I’m really looking forward to it.

"It’s such a dream growing up to play in Croke Park and unfortunately me being an Offaly player we haven’t got that opportunity [too often].

"It was in 2011 I made my debut against Dublin in Croke Park in the Championship and I haven’t been there since. That’s seven years ago now.

"We’re relishing the chance to get back in there.

"All the players are pretty much the same. I’d be one of the more senior players on the panel at this stage. Most guys wouldn’t have played in Croke Park."

After a reasonable run in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup - two wins over Westmeath and a three-point loss to Kilkenny - Kevin Martin's side come up against another new coach in Gilroy. 

Dublin are without their Cuala contingent, who remain in the All-Ireland club championship, and have selected some inexperienced players in their starting team.

However, Egan knows that the Sky Blues will still present a huge challenge.

"We wouldn’t be reading into that, we can take absolutely nothing for granted," he added. 

"I’d say there’s a bit of a buzz up there this year with Pat Gilroy and Anthony Cunningham – that’s a serious calibre of management to have.

"They won’t be taking this game lightly, they’ll see it as a home game in front of a big crowd with the football afterwards. It will be a massive challenge.

"Croke Park is a big field and I’d imagine that Dublin would be very athletic, they always tend to be."

Follow the weekend's Allianz Football and Hurling League action from 4.30pm on Saturday and 1.30pm on Sunday - live on RTÉ Radio 1 with live blogs on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News Now App.

Watch live games on GAAGO (overseas only) and see highlights on Allianz League Sunday - RTÉ2 9.30pm