Alan Judge hoping for opportunity to impress against Switzerland
Ipswich midfielder plagued by injuries keen to play in Euro qualifier and earn seventh cap
Republic of Ireland midfielder Alan Judge in training. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
If Irish supporters had never heard of Alan Judge before June 2nd, 2018 they surely would have become an instant hero that day. The Dubliner came on with a minute or so to go against the USA at the Aviva and promptly scored the winner.
It wasn’t the goal that caught the eye, though, it was the celebration that followed. This was an end of season friendly but Judge exploded in joy and piled into the collective embrace of family members seated in the lower west stand. Other players talk about their commitment to the cause, here was one who, after all the injury heartache he had been through, simply could not contain it.
With a little more luck, Judge might have 50 caps by now; instead, he is hoping that Switzerland might be his seventh although he is, as usual, still shaking off the effects of a serious injury, this one occurring in Copenhagen three months ago when he sustained a broken wrist just as the final whistle blew and his team-mates started to celebrate a draw he had helped secure.
“I think I was the last person to kick the ball,” he recalls. “I chased it down the side, Jeff played me in, I crossed it, the whistle went and the Denmark player [Jens Stryger Larsen] charged into me. I wasn’t ready because the whistle had gone and I fell. I don’t think anyone knew at the time I was injured.
“Ah, here we go,” he remembers thinking as the pain kicked in and he realised the seriousness of what had happened. “I’d come on and felt I did well, helped set up the goal and thought I’d finally got my foot in the door. I knew I’d have probably played against Gibraltar. That was a bit disappointing but I’m here now for what I feel like are the important games and if Mick needs to use me, I’m ready.”
The wrist injury must have been relatively small beer for a man who was sidelined for close to two years by a double leg fracture sustained three days after he had verbally agreed a move to the Premier League.
Instead of that, between the jigs and the reels, he now finds himself playing in League One with Ipswich, some of whose supporters gave him grief on social media through the summer when it emerged that he was looking to move back to London with QPR.
“It wasn’t their fault, they didn’t get the full facts,” he says, with characteristic good humour. “My daughter [Emily, six] needs two operations. They’re not life-threatening issues but she needs two separate operations for two different things within the next six months. She turned six last week.
“I live five minutes down the road from the hospital [in London] where she’s having the operations and, as a parent, that comes into your mind.
“To be honest, I don’t mind League One,” he continues. “I feel with the squad we have, we can come back up anyway. But the fans at the time didn’t get full facts and it was hard to take, that that was the real reason I was interested in the QPR move.”
Wherever he is playing at club level, he hopes to be around the international scene for a few years yet, given how long it has taken to get on it.
“The work that I’ve done in the gym will hopefully help keep me going to maybe 34 or 35, like Whelo, the shape he is in. If I can get to anywhere near him, I’ll be delighted.”
Martin O’Neill told him that he would have made his squad for Euro 2016 had he been fully fit so this is another target. “It’s another Euros,” he says, “the finals are in Ireland. I’m in and around the squad and I feel I’m doing well”.
Let’s just hope, his luck doesn’t hold up.