It's been a roundabout journey for John Egan to wind up in an Irish shirt but the Cork-born central defender never stopped believing he would get there.

Eight days shy of his 27th birthday, Egan made his competitive debut for Ireland alongside Shane Duffy in the centre of defence, earning the Man of the Match award afterwards even if the result wasn't the optimal one from an Irish standpoint. 

It's five years since Egan left Sunderland, where he'd regularly been farmed out loan to the likes of Southend United and Bradford City. 

He headed for League Two side Gillingham on the understanding that regular first team football was there for him provided he stayed injury free and delivered on the pitch.

His career has been on an upward curve since and he tells RTÉ Sport's Tony O'Donoghue that the decision to step down the divisions was hugely beneficial to his career. 

"Now with all the money and foreign players, foreign owners, foreign managers coming into England, it makes it harder for all the young English and Irish, Scottish and Welsh players.

"For me to go away and have a couple of setbacks on the way and climb back up the ladder, it's not been the easiest journey but I wouldn't swap it for anything in the world.

"Every year, I don't know how many players get released from youth teams. So it can be quite difficult to start from scratch and build it up again if your head isn't in it. I always believed in my ability, I always believed I had what it took to do well. Even when I broke my leg and left Sunderland I always believed I had a good future in the game. It was just up to me to knuckle down, work as hard as I could and leave no stone unturned.

"I always believed I'd get a senior international cap in the future. Obviously I went down to Gillingham who were League One at the time, leaving Sunderland who were in the Premier League.

"People might have thought why is he going there. But I knew I had a chance of playing every week. I spoke to the manager Peter Taylor and he said you'll play every week so for me it was a no-brainer for me to go and get two years of football. I fully believed if I had a bit of luck and stayed injury free, I'd get a move. Since then I moved to Brentford and Sheffield United and it's been upwards ever since. 

"If you don't have a clear pathway to the first team, you're better off as young as possible going out on loan to try and play professional games. I was with Jordan Pickford in the youth team (at Sunderland) and he'd gone on loan since he was 17, to the Conference and even below, and look where he is now."

While still at Brentford, Egan made his international debut in a fairly nondescript friendly against Iceland in March 2017 but 2019 has really seen his career ascend to a higher plane. 

A key part of the Sheffield United side that won promotion back to the Premier League in May, he is now an ever present in the top flight and has joined the front rank of Irish defenders. 

Egan joined Sheffield United at the beginning of last season

He admitted he was delighted to win the Man of the Match away on Saturday but stressed that the three points would have been preferable. Notwithstanding the setback in Tbilisi, the defender insists Ireland are well well capable of producing a big performance that'll garner a win from one of the remaining two games. 

"It felt brilliant (to win Man of the Match). It would have been a lot better if we got the three points. But it's always to get that award. And on my first competitive game, to keep a clean sheet was very pleasing. 

"We're going to approach it (the Switzerland game) looking to win. I think we go into every game wanting to win. Needing one from the last two games, we're in a good position.

"Obviously, we've two very tough games against two games. It's a great position to be in. We're unbeaten in the group and we've real belief in the squad that we can get a result and have big nights in us."

His family pedigree is fairly well known at this stage. Egan is famously the son of the legendary Kerry attacker also called John Egan, winner of six All-Ireland medals and hailed by Mick O'Dwyer as one of the greatest inside forwards in the history of the sport. It was a situation which led Egan into the awkward position of being a schoolboy in Cork who wore a Kerry jersey into training. 

His mother Mary, while we're at it, was also a fine sportswoman in her own right, winning a League of Ireland medal with Cork Rangers. 

Egan's father passed away in April 2012 at the age of 58 and the defender admits that's it moments like Saturday when he wishes he was still around to see it. 

"Them moments are great but you always wish he was still here. He loved the football as well. When I moved to England, he was over to Sunderland every chance he could get. It's good to be able to carry on his legacy a bit.

"It's great for the family. My mother is at home, she's a proud Irishwoman and loving life. She's all set to come to the games and watch all the games. It's probably better for the family than for you when you pull on that green shirt. She was a tough tackler in her day! She won a League of Ireland as well so I'll give her that."

Follow Switzerland v Republic of Ireland via our live blog on RTÉ.ie and the News Now app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 7pm or listen to full commentary on RTÉ 2fm