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O'Neill can be Judge of Alan

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Alan Judge. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Alan Judge. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

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Alan Judge. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

SCORING two goals in a win for your promotion-chasing club is a good way for a footballer to spend a Saturday afternoon.

To subsequently find out that the Ireland senior team manager was among the crowd of 8,000 on the day to witness that feat can only be described as a bonus.

Uncapped Irishman Alan Judge knows that his current status as a player in England's third tier makes it unlikely that a call-up to the national team squad is imminent and Martin O'Neill's presence at the weekend win for Judge's Brentford side over Notts County – Judge is on loan to the Bees from Blackburn Rovers – is more of a bonus than a promise.

But success in football comes via many paths. Famously, John Aldridge's Irish heritage was uncovered by accident, as Jack Charlton had gone to watch Ray Houghton in action and happened upon an uncapped striker called Aldridge who had a granny from Athlone.

MISSION

Last weekend, Martin O'Neill spent his Saturday at Griffin Park in London on a scouting mission to check up on the highly-rated U21 cap Jack Grealish, on loan from Aston Villa to Notts County.

But it was Judge's day as Grealish only got on as a half-time sub in a game which his relegation-threatened side lost, while Judge, 25, scored twice in a 3-1 win for a Brentford team who are closing in on promotion to the Championship.

"I didn't know that Martin O'Neill was going to be there on Saturday, I only found out after the match, he had gone to the game to see Jack Grealish – who I know is a great young player – but it's nice to know that he has at least seen me," Judge told The Herald.

"Luckily for me, I had a good day in front of the Ireland manager, scoring two goals. I am not going to get my hopes up about playing for Ireland soon, I know I am a good bit away from that, but I also know that I am at least in his thoughts now.

"It would be very hard for the Ireland manager to pick a player from League One when he has so many players in the Championship and the SPL as well, never mind the Irish boys who are in the Premier League and not in the Ireland team.

"But you don't get international managers turning up at Griffin Park every week, so the fact that Martin O'Neill knows his way to our ground is good for me. It's good for all Irish players, whether it's the likes of myself in League One or the lads in the League of Ireland, it's encouraging that the Irish manager will go and watch you.

"I have long since felt that we have players in League One who could play for the international team, I played with lads who are now in the SPL like Aaron Doran and Gavin Gunning and they deserve a mention as well and it's good for Irish football that players like that will at least get considered."

For Judge, his former Blackburn team-mate Keith Andrews is a role model. When Andrews was 25 – the same age as Judge now – he was in League Two and international football seemed light years away, but before long Andrews was in the Premier League and established in the Ireland side.

"Keith's a perfect example of what can happen, I was at Blackburn with Keith and I am still in touch, he still gives me advice and his progress, from League Two to the Euros with Ireland, shows that it can happen for you, even when you think it won't happen."

Judge has a good pedigree in the game already. He played first-team football for Blackburn Rovers when they were a Premier League club (though Judge's only games for Rovers came in the cup competitions) and has a good international CV (17 U21 caps between 2007-2010).

His club career has seen mixed fortunes; unable to break through at Blackburn, he moved to Notts County in 2011 and did so well in two seasons with the Magpies that Blackburn came back to sign Judge again last summer.

His second spell at Ewood Park didn't work out so well and, having lost his place in the side, he was sent out on loan to Brentford. "It started off great there, I was one of the first names on the team sheet, but when my daughter was born, I missed a game, I was out of the team for the next few weeks," he says. "I am no use to anyone if I am not playing, so I asked to go on loan, they did a deal with Brentford and I have loved it here."

That move has worked a treat, Judge delivering five goals in 16 games for a Bees side who look well-placed to win automatic promotion to the Championship.

Long-term, he has no idea what will happen; with two years left on his contract at Blackburn, it's in their hands, so Judge could simply report back to Ewood Park for pre-season in the summer to try again. But if Brentford make an permanent offer which is acceptable to Blackburn, a move to the Bees could go through.

MISSED

He is also thinking about Ireland in the long term. He played U21 games for Ireland alongside Séamus Coleman, David Meyler and Stephen Ward and would love to do the same again, at senior level.

"I have missed playing for Ireland as playing for my country was the best time of my career. For a good while there in the U21s, Séamus Coleman played behind me at right back and I was on the right wing in front of him, it was a good combination then, maybe we could do that again with the senior team," he says. "It is a long way away, but I know now that Martin O'Neill at least knows my name."


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