Monday 20 February 2017

Joy for Rooney and Judge as solid seasons earn first Irish senior chance

Published 13/05/2015 | 02:30

With Rooney, the obvious question mark is whether he can transfer his form from the SPL to a higher standard
With Rooney, the obvious question mark is whether he can transfer his form from the SPL to a higher standard

On another day, Martin O'Neill's decision to present a squad sheet with two uncapped players would have dominate discussion.

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But with Jack Grealish's absence from the provisional 33-man panel for the friendly with England and crunch Euro qualifier with Scotland hogging discussion, significant steps in the careers of Alan Judge and Adam Rooney slipped under the radar.

Judge (26) pricked the attention of O'Neill by playing a big role in bringing unfancied Brentford to the Championship play-offs.

Meanwhile, Rooney (27) is summoned on account of the 17-goal haul that has brought him to the top of the SPL scoring charts and earned a nomination from his peers for Player of the Year.

The Dubliners were both regulars in the Irish shirt at underage level before they outgrew the U-21 bracket. They've taken a circuitous route to this peak with a few disappointments along the way.

Rooney's big move to Birmingham didn't work out and Judge's second stint with his first club, Blackburn, fell below expectations. They've eventually found the homes to showcase their talent and potentially fulfil a lifelong ambition next month.

With Rooney, the obvious question mark is whether he can transfer his form from the SPL to a higher standard.

"We've had him watched pretty regularly," said O'Neill. "It's hard to make that step up - that applies to most players.

"I hadn't a problem including him in this here for the season he's had at Aberdeen and the same I'm applying to young Judge at Brentford who I've seen regularly and has done well.

"As an ex-midfielder myself, the ability to get hold of the ball and attempt to make something happen in the game (is something Judge has). Not lay it backwards or sideways, when the opportunity is there to drive on."

O'Neill will have to cut his list nearer the June 1 gathering and the June 4 behind-closed-doors game with Northern Ireland will offer scope to try things out.

As expected, Darron Gibson and Ciaran Clark are out through injury but skipper Robbie Keane has texted to say he will be over a groin problem.

Irish Independent

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