Football/Soccer

Alan Judge not looking in his rear view mirror after Republic of Ireland call-up

Republic of Ireland's Alan Judge has recovered after 19 months of injury hell and is hoping to make an impact in the Euro 2020 double-header against Gibraltar and Georgia. Picture by PA
From Brendan Crossan in Gibraltar

AFTER 19 months of injury hell, Alan Judge had probably given up hope of resuming his Republic of Ireland career.

Following an extended period in the wilderness, the 30-year-old is delighted to get a second chance on the international stage after receiving a call-up from Mick McCarthy for their Euro 2020 double-header against Gibraltar and Georgia.

It is no exaggeration to say Judge had the world at his feet just a couple of seasons ago.

On the cusp of a dream move to Newcastle and nudging into Euro 2016 contention, the Dubliner’s world fell apart in an instant.

In April 2016, an horrendous tackle by Ipswich Town’s Luke Hyam left the-then Brentford playmaker with a shattered broken left leg and a potentially brilliant career in ruins.

“I don't like saying it but my family's financial security was just (clicks his fingers) taken away from me in two minutes,” said Judge. “My career, all that – Euros [2016], Premier League, everything.

“But when you're injured you find out just how much you love football.

“Everyone always likes it when you think you can look after your family, but I just missed being on that pitch.”

After several operations Judge battled back to full fitness but his days at Brentford – where the gifted midfielder was hugely popular – were numbered.

Being injured is bad enough - not playing when you’re fit is probably worse, he says.

So he moved to Ipswich during the January transfer window earlier this year where he’s getting more game-time and finding his feet again.

Sitting in front of reporters in Abbotstown on Wednesday morning, Judge gave the most candid insight into life as a professional footballer.

He admits there were periods of disenchantment after his recovery.

“Probably at times when I was injured and coming home trying to put on a happy face for the kids [Jackson and Emily],” he says.

“There’d be times if I didn’t have a great day at training I’d be coming home and I’d just stop off about 200 yards down the road from the house to have 10 minutes to myself because I never wanted to bring that home to the kids.

“I didn’t want them to see that, I didn’t want them to see that I was annoyed or upset because of what happened in training. Luckily enough, I didn’t actually have too many of those days; but there were days I did have them… My wife, Emma, was brilliant.”

He adds: “The frustrating part was when I was fit and felt like if I was given five or six games in a row, as I was at Ipswich, I think I would have been back to where I was quicker.”

Judge, the proud owner of just four senior international caps, didn’t imagine any more time in the green jersey. But McCarthy and assistant boss Terry Connor kept tabs on Judge’s quiet renaissance at Portman Road this year.

“For me, it's just enjoying every minute of it. I know I've maybe missed my chance to go to the Premier League, but it's about taking every minute you can on the pitch.”

The feeling of grass under Alan Judge’s feet has never felt better..

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