Comortas Peile John Egan u14 Invitational Tournament

July 15th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

The location could not have been more fitting, sitting in the stand in Fitzgerald Stadium gazing out at the vast green expanses where the late John Egan had displayed all his immense range of skills as he starred for Sneem, South  Kerry and of course Kerry in a career that stretched from 1973-84. I was in the company of John's daughter Maureen and son John, their mother Mary was also in attendance. The occasion was the recent Comortas Peile John Egan u14 Invitational Tournament. Memories came flooding back as we recalled some of his greatest achievements. A prolific scoring machine, 14-59 in championship football, 21-59 in league action, nine Munster medals and of course eight All ireland Celtic crosses, four league medals and of course four All Star awards.

Maureen of the very same lovely gentle smile that her father possessed, recalling for me his passion for handing on the skills that he was so blessed with. "He would gather all the young lads with John around him and teach them not only football but golf, soccer and much more. I would go to all the matches with him and he was always in my ear pointing out the various aspects of the game and how fellows were playing. Even to day when I go to games I feel he is there along side me and i am much more open to everything that happens on the field and thanks to him I understand situations much better". So what is it like for the daughter of this legendary and much loved Kerry legend as she lives out her daily life, is she always recognised as "John Egan's daughter"? "Well' she replied with a laugh, "once it was always, are you John Egan's daughter?, now its always are you John Egan's brother?, but I love it. I will never be known as Maureen".

Yes the second John Egan, who has also inherited many of his father's characteristics and no doubt many of his mothers. The son, affable, courteous, polite and anxious to talk football just like his father. I have precious memories of spending time with the late John away from the maddening crowds and I was always greatly aware of his razor sharp football brain. He would discuss individual players and matches from a completely different perspective than others and I and utterly convinced that had he lived he would certainly have become involved in some capacity in Kerry inter-county management.

Seven years ago I rang John at his home in Bishopstown, Cork, hoping to set up a meeting with him to record his career. He was not at home I left a message with Mary and later that evening he was on the line to me and when I suggested I travel to Cork to meet him he immediately insisted he would shorten my journey and he would travel to Macroom, we met in the hotel there where he captivated me for over two hours recalling in perfect detail the ups and downs of his magnificent career. That eighty minute interview is available to down load on the Terrace Talk web site under the heading, GAA interviews.

John junior was lavish in his praise for the efforts Tomas O hAinifein, tournament director, Mary Joe Curran and all the committee who put in a massive effort organizing this feast of under 14 football which perputates his fathers memory. He had of coursed special recollections of his father, " he was bringing me to matches here in Killarney since I was just a few years old and looking out now and seeing all those young players enjoying themselves I have no doubt but he is looking down from above with a big smile on his face". And he added, "what better way to honour my dad than with a tournament such as this and to see a team from London, Dulwich Harps, all born there, competing and winning it out only adds to the occasion". Incidentally my own club Killarney Legion under the expert management of John Culloty suffered defeat in the final to this London side who were powered by their goal scoring machine Will Ozono who must have raised at least 12 green flags during the weekend.

A phrase that I have so often heard used in relation to John Egan, even to this very day would be "John Egan was one of the most underrated players of all on that great Kerry team", they were words I heard constantly and I mentioned this to young John during our chat. A broad smile lit up his face as he recalled his fathers words when he would be reminded of this, "and who exactly underrated me he would say". Of course the fact that so many people would reminder John senior in this way for me emphasis in the strongest possible manner the fact that everyone appreciates the greatness of John Egan. And then John summed up his fathers legacy beautifully when he said, "Kerry legends never die".

John Egan junior just 22 years old is now a professional soccer player with Gillingham, the only Kent based club in the Football League and who compete in League Division one. He has just signed a new two year deal as a defender with The Gills following spells with Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Bradford City and Southend United and has represented Ireland at under 17-19-21 level. An amazing wealth of experience packed into such a young sports life. He has fully recovered from a serious leg fracture suffered in 2012 and he is eagerly looking forward to life under manager Peter Taylor.

It was in many ways a poignant but memorable occasion as the wife, daughter and son of one of the greatest players the game has ever seen sat and watched young footballers from all over Ireland and beyond display their skills and dream of emulating the man in whose memory the tournament is played. And will anyone ever again display the strength, bravery, skills, goal scoring powers and breathtaking grace rarely seen in solo running which John Egan was renowned for. His magnificent displays remain etched in the memory but for me the John Egan I loved most of all was the man willing to give of his time when ever our paths crossed, courteous, gentle, chivalrous, quite spoken and most of all humble. John Egan one of the greatest of six Kerry forwards I have ever seen. It was a privilege to meet his family.

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