Wednesday 20 June 2018

Judge back from hell

Alan looks forward after cap in Turkey ends agony of two years

Turkey’s Okay Yokuslu is challenged by Ireland’s Alan Judge during the friendly at Antalya Stadium
Turkey’s Okay Yokuslu is challenged by Ireland’s Alan Judge during the friendly at Antalya Stadium

Turkish football fans used to thrive on telling visiting teams that they were about to enter hell. Or, in the words of the famous banner which greeted Manchester United on arrival to play Galatasatray, 'Welcome To The Hell'.

Turkey, though, is where Alan Judge says he emerged from two years of hell, brought on him by injury, as he looks now to try and carve out an international career, at the age of 29 and at the second time of asking.

This time two years ago, things were going as well as possible for the Dubliner: a key member of a decent-looking Brentford side, he'd impressed on his senior Ireland debut, against Switzerland (yesterday was the second anniversary of that game), and looked well-placed to be in the running for a place in the squad for Euro 2016.

Intervened

Then injury intervened, a double leg fracture similar to Séamus Coleman, and Judge would not kick a ball in anger for 20 months, missing out on 22 internationals.

But he was called from the bench to play for the final 11 minutes of the 1-0 loss in Turkey last week, a big moment for the St Joseph's Boys product, and he's now keen to make his name with Ireland.

"Personally, it's been a long two years so it's nice to come out of hell and get back into it," says Judge, pleased to be back in with the national team.

"Obviously, I had little bit of fear because I had to get back in at club level first, I reckon it will be pre-season when I get back to my best.

"I've still got a lot of work to do, but Martin (O'Neill), Roy (Keane) and everyone here have been in touch with me quite a lot so that has been good for me.

"The fact that Roy and Martin kept in contact with me means that they had faith in me. So it's up to me to get fully fit and try to get back around the squad."

This was only Judge's second cap so at his age, he needs to make an impact now. Judge will turn 30 just after the conclusion of the Nations League campaign in November, and competition for midfield places will be intense.

O'Neill took just eight midfielders to Turkey (Judge, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, David Meyler, Eunan O'Kane, Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan and James McClean).

Hourihane and Browne did little to enhance their chances with sub-par displays, though a strong finish to the season at club level and possible promotion to the Premier League could give them a leg up.

But midfielders currently out injured will claim back their places in the squad once fit, James McCarthy, Callum O'Dowda and Robbie Brady, while it's unclear if Aiden McGeady and Glenn Whelan still have a future with Ireland.

"I reckon next season is the one when you will see the best of me again," says Judge, keen to get a run in the Bees team.

"I've done whatever I can do in training and it's down to the manager now.

"I'm just waiting and biding my time, being patient and waiting."

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