John Egan: Sheffield United defender hoping for Ireland call against Bulgaria

John Egan has earned four Republic of Ireland caps
John Egan helped Sheffield United achieve promotion to the Premier League in May

John Egan hopes his fine Premier League form for Sheffield United could earn him a Republic of Ireland start in Tuesday's friendly against Bulgaria.

Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh have been impressive in central defence for the Republic but Egan represents another option for manager Mick McCarthy.

"You're playing against top teams every week, so you're being asked different questions," said Egan, 26.

"It can only benefit me and make me a better player."

Egan's career has taken him from his release by Sunderland, where he suffered a serious injury during a loan spell at Bradford, back to the top flight via Gillingham and Brentford.

He was part of the Blades side which secured an unlikely promotion from the Championship at the end of last season and which has made light of the step up to the big time despite the added rigours that has brought.

Egan's late father John in action for the great Kerry gaelic football team in 1984
Egan's late father John was a legendary gaelic footballer for Kerry

Along the way, the Cork-born defender, whose late father John was legendary gaelic footballer for Kerry in the 1970s and 1980s, has earned four Republic of Ireland caps but he is yet to play a run of games for his country.

However, Egan's Premier League form suggests that he has moved up the Republic's defensive pecking order.

"Personally I feel like my performances have been good. I've really enjoyed the step up.

"I'm trying to embrace it and really have a good few games and good season now and show that I belong."

Luton's Collins in line of Republic debut

If Egan does get a chance against the Bulgarians at the Aviva Stadium, he could find himself lining up alongside a debutant in the shape of Luton striker James Collins.

The 28-year-old former Aston Villa trainee is another man who has had to work his way back up the ladder after an early setback, and currently finds himself playing Championship football and scoring goals after back-to-back promotions with the Hatters.

With David McGoldrick, who scored the Republic's late equaliser against Switzerland on Thursday, and Callum Robinson having been released because of injury, Collins and Scott Hogan are the only specialist frontmen in the squad, a fact which brings Shane Long's omission into ever sharper focus.

Collins said: "Me and John were talking the other day - it was not so long ago when we were playing against each other in League One for Gillingham and Shrewsbury.

"So to see how far we've both come since then - obviously, John playing in the Premier League now and myself in the Championship - it can show any young player that, if you do have a setback, you can only bounce back if you work hard."