Mick McCarthy has heaped praise on Ipswich Town midfielder Alan Judge after the 30-year old made his final 23-man Irish squad for the European qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.
Judge, who moved to Ipswich from Brentford in January is having a strong season for the struggling Trotters and will be looking to establish himself as an important player in McCarthy’s midfield.
The 30-year old’s creativity brings something different than a lot of other options in the Irish midfield and McCarthy feels that the Ipswich man is the “nearest” player to Wes Hoolahan that he has in his current squad.
“He’s the nearest to Hoolahan that can play in the middle of the pitch. He 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. He’s someone that can play wide left, wide right or in behind the striker.”
Judge had been one of the Championship’s most in-form players in 2016 with Brentford before a terrible leg-break hampered his career and caused him to miss out on the European Championships that same year.
Following his loan spell at Ipswich however, Judge is starting to look more like the player who managed 14 goals and 11 assists in the 2015/2016 season with Brentford.
McCarthy outlined that he is a big fan of the player, revealing that when he was the manager of Ipswich he tried to sign the attacking midfielder.
“He is back to his form that we were so used to for such a long time, he’s had a long time out, the irony is he broke his leg at Ipswich and now he’s back there playing his best football again, I know he’s really enjoying it again, I’ve seen him twice, he’s someone who can play wide left, wide right and also in behind the striker and is someone who can bring something different.
“I tried to sign him when I was Ipswich manager, I met him but somebody paid him more money.”
Judge will be a part of the 23-man squad for the games in just over a week’s time, but Preston’s Alan Browne and Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis have both been ruled out with injury.
McCarthy has drafted former Irish U21s captain Josh Cullen and Burnley defender Kevin Long in as replacements.