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Brentford are buzzing thanks to in-form Irish star Alan Judge

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Alan Judge (#18) of Brentford shoots and scores past Carl Ikem the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Griffin Park on November 29, 2014 in Brentford, England

Alan Judge (#18) of Brentford shoots and scores past Carl Ikem the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Griffin Park on November 29, 2014 in Brentford, England

Alan Judge (#18) of Brentford shoots and scores past Carl Ikem the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Griffin Park on November 29, 2014 in Brentford, England

CLUB officials from London outfit Brentford have had few dealings with the FAI in the last while, as a player from that club hasn't been capped by Ireland since 1947.

But with three players from Ireland in a Bees side who have become the surprise packets of the Championship season this team - little Brentford are now third in the table, well ahead of big-spending rivals like Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Wolves - there's more and more talk about the men from Griffin Park and their Irish contingent, headed by the talented Alan Judge but also including fellow Dubliner Alan McCormack and ex-international Jonathan Douglas.

Martin O'Neill has already been to Brentford to see Judge, and in recent days Kevin Kilbane voiced his opinion. After watching Judge score in a 4-0 demolition of Wolves last weekend, Kilbane tweeted that he'd been impressed by the former U21 cap and Kilbane reckoned that Judge has "got to be pushing for an Ireland squad place".

Words from a player with 110 senior caps carry weight and they sounded good to Judge's ears." A few people told me what Kevin Kilbane said about me on twitter and that meant a lot," Judge told The Herald.

The former St Joseph's Boys lad is now earning widespread praise after earlier spells with Blackburn and Notts County, while he also had a good pedigree as his dad, Dermot, was a stalwart for Bray Wanderers.

"Having one of the all-time legends with Ireland praising you is something else. It's an honour even to be mentioned by Kevin but I won't let myself get carried away, I know my form has to be good for it to happen.

LONG GAP

"There is a long gap now before the next international, it's a long way off so in that time I will focus on doing well for Brentford and if something happened with Ireland there would be on one happier than me.

"I have only played 18 games in the Championship this season so I have a lot more to prove. Just because I have had 18 games for a Championship club doesn't mean I should be in the Ireland squad, I need to prove that I deserve to be considered first.

"It is in the back of my mind, playing for Ireland. Getting capped for your country is the best thing you can do in your career, it's the biggest honour there is and I have a lot more to do before that can happen for me," added Judge, capped 17 times at U21 level.

He has treasured everyone one of his underage caps, even more so as early snub from Ireland hurt and hurt badly.

MESSAGE

"When I was younger I got a message saying I had been called up for the Irish U15s. But it was a mistake as I hadn't been picked, someone had contacted the wrong player. I think it happened to other players as well but letters went out to the wrong people, and it was devastating," he admits.

"It really hit me hard, it was one of the worst things to happen me, having to deal with that at the age of 15 was hard and I actually stopped playing football for a month after as I just didn't want to play.

"Vinny Butler had to ring my dad to explain what had happened and my dad was distraught too - my dad's been a big influence on my career, he was over with my mam at our game last weekend where I scored my first goal of the season so maybe he's a lucky charm.

"But I got to play for the U16s after that and I played at every age group after that, up to the seniors. Being called up and then being told you're not picked was really hard, and I think I've had a sense of drive and determination since then, I had a real willingness to learn and improve. Success in football is about hard work, if you do the work you should get the rewards."

And the rewards are flowing for the Bees, an unexpected presence in the top three in the Championship.

"I don't think even our own fans thought we'd be this far up the league in December. We've won the last five games in a row and that's seen us go right up the table, up to third," says Judge.

"We're not getting carried away at all, we still have to play all the teams again, and maybe the teams that we have beaten so far will get us back next time.

INCREDIBLE

"Yet it would be incredible to play in the Premier League. It's the best league in the world, everyone wants to play in it and it would be some achievement for a club like Brentford to get into the Premier League.

"And we have a good Irish crew at the club. Alan McCormack has been unlucky, he did his ankle ligaments and needed an operation and he was one of our best players before that happened. Jon Douglas has been superb for us and I am learning from him all the time," added Judge, happy with life at the Bees.

"This is a nice club, a small club, it reminds me a lot of Plymouth Argyle from when I was there, a well-run family club where everyone pulls in the right direction. It's one of the smaller London clubs but the owner has big ambitions, he wants us in the Premier League. They are building a new stadium and they have big plans, it's a great place to be, the fans and the players get on well and I think we are making them happy at the moment."


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