Forde itching to make impact
Millwall ’keeper targeting Italy clash as rare chance to impress in Ireland shirt
SEVEN times in 83 years now has the Ireland team visited Belgium to play an international and not once has the man in goal for the Republic managed to come away with a clean sheet.
No pressure, then, for David Forde as he makes his first international start against the Italians in Liege tonight.
This is an Italian side which has failed to score in just one of their last nine games and have scored three times in their last two games.
From making his League of Ireland debut with Galway United in 1999 to going head to head with Gianluigi Buffon – it's been a long walk for Forde, now 32.
But the big Galway man has stood up to big teams before, be it in the Championship with Millwall or on the European stage with Derry City (three clean sheets in six UEFA Cup games in 2006, including an impressive 0-0 draw with the mighty PSG), so he has told Giovanni Trapattoni to have no fears about pitching him in for his full Ireland debut against Italy.
“Away from home against Italy is about as big a test you can get in football, but this is the sort of opportunity you dream of so I have no worries about myself being able to cope,” Forde told the Herald.
“A game against Italy is always going to be a very tough test and it's even more difficult here as we have a few players missing and they seem to have a full squad. The manager spoke about it the other day and he said the Italians are taking this game very seriously.
“They will have their full squad out – it looks like Balotelli will be missing but the rest of the squad is just full of quality players so it's not an easy game to come in to.
“Italy are that sort of nation in world football, they can have a player like Balotelli out but bring in a world-class player to replace him. They still have players in the squad from the team that won the World Cup five years ago so it's not easy to try and match that standard.
“You have to start somewhere and this game is my big chance as Shay is missing,” he added. “It'll be a huge honour for me to play in this game, it means so much to me and to my family. I don't want to let anyone down and I hope I can repay the manager's faith.
“Keeping a clean sheet in international football is very difficult, against any nation, never mind someone like Italy.
“So I know I will be in for a busy night in Liege but I am feeling fit and confident. I had a good season with my club, I had a lot of clean sheets with Millwall last season and now I hope I can cap it all off by doing well tonight.”
The exodus from the Ireland squad for this game continued yesterday, with news that Aiden McGeady had been released from international duty at the request of his club to aid Spartak Moscow's preparations for a big league game on Friday night.
That means that 17 players of the original 33-man squad for the end-ofseason programme with Ireland will not be in Belgium tonight, and after the highs of Skopje on Saturday, it's hard for many people to raise some enthusiasm for a friendly on neutral soil. But for those who will get to play, like Forde, Stephen Ward, Andy Keogh and Kevin Foley, it's a major occasion.
CAMPAIGN “I know it's the end of the campaign and the last game of a long season, a lot of people will have switched off from football already, but this is a big deal for me,” Forde says.
“Shay Given is out of the game so I have a chance now and I am eager to impress. If the chance comes along for me to play it will be fantastic for me and a real reward for all the hard work I have done over the last few years, but especially in the last season.”
Forde had been on the bench for Ireland twice before he got the chance to play, against Northern Ireland in the Carling Nations Cup last month. But for a while, it seemed as if his services may have been needed on Saturday night in Skopje, as Shay Given was clearly struggling with a groin injury.
“I was aware of that and the manager had me getting warmed up. I knew there was a possibility I might have to play as Shay needed an injection at half-time, but thank God he was able to play on.”
Brian Murphy is also hoping to get the nod from Trapattoni at some stage this evening as a replacement for Forde. The former Bohemians ’keeper, now on the hunt for a club after turning down the offer of a new contract from Ipswich Town, has been in the squad on many occasions and was on the bench three times (against Brazil, Paraguay and Algeria) but has yet to win a senior cap.