Egan eager to keep learning

GAA: All Ireland U20 Football Championship

A man on a mission: Ross Egan is looking to lead Mayo to the All Ireland U20 final. Photo: Sportsfile.

A man on a mission: Ross Egan is looking to lead Mayo to the All Ireland U20 final. Photo: Sportsfile.

Back in the dog days of January Aghamore's Ross Egan was living a bit of a dream, one that he knew would come to an end, but one that has given him the taste of what could be possible if he keeps his head down and keeps working as hard as he can.

Egan was among a number of young players drafted in to get some game time with the Mayo senior side during the FBD League, and while he did get just the one appearance he managed to kick a point against Leitrim in that contest, it has given him a look at what needs to be done to reach the elite level of the game.

Speaking in the build up to this weekend's All Ireland U20 championship semifinal Egan said of his time with the senior set up in the first few weeks of the year: “It was some experience, just going in and being an inside forward and Andy Moran talking to you and showing you what you can do.

"It was a great pre-season and we knew we’d be going back to the U20s but it set a lot of us up and we got a good strength and conditioning work done and we knew what it took and how strong we had to get."

While there were nerves at first going into such a set up they settled down quite quickly once he got down to work with them. He added: "At first yeah I suppose there was a lot of butterflies floating around, but when you start training and you see the lads and they work hard and do what they are supposed to be doing then you realise there is no secret and you just have to work hard and get down to it."

Having that taste has doubled the young Aghamore man's hunger to get back there and have a real crack at making a dent in the top ranks of the game he told us: “Of course, when we went back to the U20s it just showed that the boys who were in there that they really needed to set a standard for the U20s to show the younger lads, the 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds, that this is the standard the seniors work at and this is the standard we need to work at if we want to do anything."

This year is the first U20 championship with it replacing the old U21 grade and the minors moving down to U17, and with that it has also added a new dynamic to the mix with 17-olds playing on the same side as guys who have already turned 20 whereas before they would not mix too often.

Making sure that everyone feels part of the group no matter who they are or what age they are is something that the Mayo squad have been very keen to ensure as Egan explained: “It is good - especially in the last month or two, we are all gelling better and there is a close group and it doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 17, and when we are coming back and getting a bit of grub or whatever you sit beside whoever, in whatever chair is empty and you talk and get to know them, there is no cliques or groups. Some personalities are bigger than others - but everyone talks to each other."

The Connacht final saw Mayo pull away to claim the title in style seeing off Roscommon on a score of 3-16 to 1-6 in Hyde Park, and it was a great day for Egan, one that he will remember for a long time after scoring eight points in that rout, and as for the first thing he remembers after the full time whistle: "A big smile. It was a big day and it was my first Connacht inter-county title, and you know personally it is a big moment for me and a lot of lads who haven’t won silverware and now it’s on to a big battle with Derry."

While there were plenty of celebrations after that victory it was back to work very soon after and there has been no looking back since, just looking forward he told us. "We went back training that Wednesday after and we have been thinking of nothing now but Derry we have been training hard and people are looking for places and fighting for jerseys.

"We are getting further on and everybody wants to be playing so it is getting more and more competitive and it brings out the best in everybody - lads that… there is nobody giving less than 100 per cent, nobody wants to be on the subs or missing out on the panel, everybody is fighting for the jersey."

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