judge's pain as Euro dream dies
Leg break ends Judge's season and Euro 2016 hopes as McGeady struggles again
An apology from the opponent who ended his season - and ended his chances of making it to Euro 2016 with Ireland - will be of no consolation today for Alan Judge as the Dubliner counts the cost of a very painful weekend and looks to the future.
Judge made his senior international debut against Switzerland last month and while it was far from a dream debut - the Brentford man was played out of position - he had hoped to stay in the frame for a trip to France next summer, his goals-scoring ratio and assist rate enough to give Martin O'Neill something to ponder at least.
Instead of making that trip to France, Judge will, like new international team-mate Rob Elliot, watch the action on TV, both ruled out for the rest of the season as Judge suffered a broken leg while on duty for Brentford against Ipswich on Saturday.
It was a painfully bad blow for Judge on a weekend when O'Neill had plenty to be concerned about, as Glenn Whelan and Keiren Westwood were not fit to play for their clubs, players like Harry Arter, Daryl Murphy and Anthony Pilkington remain sidelined while Aiden McGeady had another one of his off days, substituted at half time by Sheffield Wednesday, and John O'Shea could only watch from the bench as his Sunderland side slid closer to relegation in their defeat to champions-elect Leicester.
But a half-time substitution and a bench role in a relegation battle cannot compare to the utter agony felt by Judge, who will be out for months.
"Alan Judge sustained a fracture injury to his lower leg," Brentford said in a statement which confirmed the news.
"The injury was assessed and immobilised locally and Alan has now been transferred to a London hospital where he will be managed by the leading lower limb consultant in the country. The nature of his management and long-term prognosis cannot be speculated on at this time, however it should be stated that a full recovery is not in question.
"Alan and his family will receive our fullest support and further comment will be provided as we're able to over the coming days."
Luke Hyam, the Ipswich player involved in the incident, issued a public apology and said he plans to personally contact Judge early this week. "I've been out injured for a year myself and the last thing I want to see is a fellow pro getting injured like that. I would never wish that on anyone," said Hyam. "I feel distraught over it. It was distressing to see and definitely affected me. My head had gone."
Bees team-mate Lasse Vibe said the win over Ipswich was dedicated to the popular Dubliner, for what that was worth. "The goals were for Judgey and those three points were for him. It's not going to help him. He's probably not in the best mood at the moment but we'll do what we can to help him," said the Dane. "He's been our outstanding player this year. Everyone has associated Brentford with him. He's made an assist in every game he's played basically. He was doing well for club and country and my thoughts are with him and his family."
Overall, O'Neill will have drawn little comfort from the weekend's action. The positives were a scoring return from injury for Shane Long in Southampton's win over Newcastle United and the rare sight of James McCarthy celebrating a goal - his strike in Everton's draw with Watford was his first goal for club or country in 12 months.
The sight of Leon Best on the scoresheet again for Rotherham United should be at least food for thought. Despite the return of Long, strikers Robbie Keane, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Daryl Murphy and Adam Rooney are all out due to injury, though Murphy and Rooney are close to a return.
Doyle's club manager in the MLS, Paolo Mastreoni, said over the weekend that Doyle, who suffered that shin gash against Switzerand last month, was "doing better, progressing in the fashion that we'd expect".
But, worryingly, the Colorado Rapids coach said that a five-week absence was still likely, meaning Doyle would be back fit around May 14th, a week before the Ireland squad are due to report to Dublin for Euro duty.
Best last played in a competitive international back in 2009 so it would be a big leap for the 29-year-old to force his way into the squad for Euro 2016 but his current form (four goals in five games) makes him a stronger candidate for a back-up role than Simon Cox (without a goal in 16 months).
But worries remain from an Ireland viewpoint. Anthony Pilkington and Daryl Murphy are reportedly making good progress and are close to fitness but Harry Arter and Marc Wilson still have work to do to get match fit.
Aiden McGeady's up and down season goes on in the same vein, the winger substituted at half time by Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal in their dismal 4-1 loss to relegation-threatened Bristol City.
Keiren Westwood, in line for an Ireland recall due to Elliot's injury, missed that game due to an illness.