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'He's the nearest to Hoolahan that can play in the middle of the pitch'

Mick McCarthy hopes a rejuvenated Alan Judge can offer something different for Ireland.

Alan Judge was on the scoresheet in last year's Ireland-USA friendly.
Alan Judge was on the scoresheet in last year's Ireland-USA friendly.
Image: Brian Lawless

Updated at 13.36

THERE WERE SOME notable inclusions and absences as Ireland boss Mick McCarthy named his final 23-man squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia on Thursday.

15 players were left out that made the provisional squad, including some who were often key members of O’Neill’s squad, including James McCarthy, Cyrus Christie and David Meyler.

One individual who does feature, however, is Alan Judge. The 30-year-old has had a turbulent time in recent seasons. A leg break suffered playing for Brentford in April 2016 kept him out of action for nearly two years. Having struggled to get back into the Bees’ side, he made the switch to relegation-threatened Ipswich in the January transfer window.

The Dubliner has since made 10 appearances for the Tractor Boys, with manager Paul Lambert recently expressing hope that the club would extend the player’s contract, which is set to expire at the end of the season.

And Judge is a player that McCarthy knows well, having tried to sign him while managing Ipswich five years ago.

“Yes, I met him at Ipswich. But [Blackburn] paid him more money,” McCarthy recalls.

He’s the nearest to [Wes] Hoolahan that can play in the middle of the pitch — finds passes and he’s got a goal in him. Is he back to the form he was at [before the injury]? Not quite, because it looked like he was going to be a Premier League player. He was a long time out — he broke his leg at Ipswich and he’s back there now playing his best football. I know he’s enjoying it, I’ve seen him twice and he’s been excellent.”

Judge is joined in the final panel by uncapped Luton Town striker James Collins, who is currently the top scorer in League One, with his team at the summit of the table and in a strong position to gain promotion.

“It’s not me naming a lower league player for the sake of it. James has been around for a long time in the leagues and wherever he’s been, he’s scored goals. He’s got 20 goals this year and my view is 20 goals in [League One] is someone who hits the target on a regular basis, whether it’s left, right or his head. He’s more value to me than someone who’s not scoring.

“Then of course, Shane [Long] hasn’t scored for a long time. But he’s a real handful. He upsets people when he runs in channels and jumps into them. If he gets the right service, I still think he can score.”

McCarthy also singled out the previously ostracised David McGoldrick for praise (“whatever happened before with Martin is nothing to do with me, I just recognise him as a good player”), while indicating that others could work their way back into the fold.

“I could make an argument for Scott Hogan. I saw him playing for Brentford and in my mind, when I got the job, I’m thinking Scott Hogan is a shoo-in for me for the way he played at Brentford. But he went to Villa, he got injured, he didn’t play, he’s not scored, he’s gone to Sheffield United, he played the other night and still hasn’t scored. If he can get back to his form at Brentford, he’d be a shoo-in because he was outstanding — he had a great couple of seasons there.”

And what about previous stalwarts of the squad, such as Meyler and Christie? How did they react to news of their omission?

I haven’t told them. The squad was just announced. I’m not ringing all the players that I’m not putting in the squad. It’s hard enough telling them face to face on a Friday morning that they aren’t playing. David Meyler hasn’t been playing. I’ve been speaking to David, I think he’s had four games since January and he hadn’t really played much before then. Cyrus is also not playing and to be fair, the other two right-backs are playing and that in my view stands to reason.”

And finally, what of Willem II midfielder Dan Crowley, who recently declared for the Irish side having previously represented England at underage level?

“He took his time to make his mind up. Slightly took his time, so that’s why he was not considered with me.”

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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