Alan Judge defiantly insists he will rebuild his career after making an emotional return from long-term injury for Brentford.
The 29-year-old playmaker came on for the last 20 minutes in the Bees’ shock 1-0 home FA Cup loss to League Two Notts County.
It was the Dubliner’s first action for 637 days since suffering a horrific double leg break in April 2016 following a challenge by Ipswich’s Luke Hyam.
It was a life-changing moment for Judge who had just made his debut for Ireland and was poised for a move to the Premier League, but then missed out on the chance of a trip to Euro 2016.
“It was emotional getting back on, of course it was,” Judge said, “but to be honest I didn’t take it in as much as I might have because of the match situation, and the fact we were losing.
“So you just want to get on with it, but I was very happy to get the call from the gaffer and be back on the pitch.
“Maybe you can’t call it a celebration after the result, but I certainly planned to have a bit of dinner with my family after the match.
“I got that 20 minutes under my belt and the confidence that I can be playing for this team again. And I will look forward to hopefully getting on against Bolton in the Championship next week.
“I can’t say enough for the support I have had over the difficult months since the injury, from my family, to the gaffer, the players, the fans — everyone. It has been unbelievable.
“It is hard to put into words what they have all done for me. It has been nearly two years out and for people to stand by you like that is great.”
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, who handed Judge his international debut in a friendly against Switzerland in March 2016, has stayed in touch with the player throughout his ordeal.
“My goals are clear: get back as a regular in the Brentford team, hopefully back in the Ireland set-up, and then try and fulfil my dream of playing in the Premier League.
“I am only 29, some people maybe think age could be against me but I don’t think so, not by a long shot. Some players play until they are 36 at this level or higher.
“I have come back from an injury that people didn’t think I could come back from, two years out, and I am very proud of myself to have come through what I have and be back here.”
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