Representing your country is one of the proudest achievements for any professional footballer but there comes a time when it can become a hindrance, particularly when a player is coming towards the autumn of their careers. John Egan could be a case in point.
The Sheffield United captain was forced off in the second half of the Blades' 2-0 defeat to West Ham at the weekend and left the London Stadium on crutches, wearing a protective boot. It would appear very unlikely at this stage that the 30-year-old will make another trip to the capital this Saturday as United take on Fulham at Craven Cottage.
It's the second time this season that Egan has left the pitch early after picking up an injury; the first coming in the 2-2 draw with Everton at Bramall Lane. What will have been frustrating from a United point of view is that a few days after that one, he flew off on international duty nursing that, albeit minor, injury. He would go on to play the majority of a gruelling double-header for the Republic of Ireland against France and the Netherlands, no less - captaining the side and playing the full match against Mbappe and co. and then enduring 73 minutes of a defeat to Ronald Koeman's outfit.
Egan arrived back in South Yorkshire injured and missed the Blades' dramatic 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.
The knocks that he is beginning to pick up can surely come as no surprise, neither can it be purely coincidental that Egan has not reached the form he has shown in previous campaigns. Indeed there were quite a number of occasions last year where he just didn't seem quite at it.
There's a fair argument to suggest that 31-years-of-age - which Egan will reach later this month - is not trudging over the hill as it was once felt, such is the supreme fitness of these modern day athletes. However, there does come a time when things do begin to catch up with you and in Egan's defence it's could well be due to the sheer amount of football that he has played over the past few years.
It wasn't until July 2021 that the Cork man became a nailed-on starter in the Republic of Ireland team, Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh the preferred partnership in the centre of defence previously. Since then he has been involved in all but one of the past 25 international matches and played a full game in all but three of them.
The real issue is, now that he is a hugely important figure for club and country, having been something of a late bloomer, Egan is getting older yet playing far more than he used to. In 2018/19 he played 48 matches. Between June 2022 and June 2023, he played 62 times. Little wonder that the knocks are seemingly beginning to crop up a little more and his form take a bit of a dip.
There's also the mental and emotional fatigue that will come from these games, particularly now. At international level, just like at United, such is the size of the country and its status, he's likely to be taking on teams and individuals who are, quite simply, better on a fairly regular basis. It's a challenge that Egan no doubt relishes, but one that surely must be draining, both physically and mentally. And all of that is not to mention traveling to the farthest corners of Europe.
A little over four years ago, Egan's United team mate Ollie Norwood retired from international football at the age of 28 after amassing 57 caps for Northern Ireland. For his career, it was the best decision he could have made.
Norwood had just been promoted to the Premier League for the third time, and on this occasion with United. After the previous two with Fulham and Brighton he had been let go before getting the chance to prove himself in the top flight and he wanted nothing to distract him from the chance to prove he could cut it among the best. He did just that.
All of Norwood’s energies were thrust into playing for his club and he spent more time with his young family, rather than going away for a couple of weeks at a time. The player and United benefited immensely.
Now, it might be time for Egan, if he hasn't already, to have a conversation with Norwood around possibly making a similar, probably more difficult, decision. A fiercely proud Irishman, Egan doesn't shy away from showing how proud he is to represent and indeed captain his country - and so he should. But soon, if that stage hasn't already been reached, something might have to give.
It's a very tough call on an emotional level, with the Republic of Ireland not blessed with huge swathes of top flight talent and Egan certainly not wanting to let down his country, but it's one that may need to be given thought to.