Millwall keeper Forde in line for first Ireland call-up
NOT MANY players get to arrive on the big stage at the age of 31, but Millwall's Galway-born goalkeeper David Forde is readying himself for a very late introduction to international football.
The goalkeeping position is a real concern for Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni for the next international, at home to Macedonia next month.
Shay Given is definitely out with injury, back-up keepers Brian Murphy and Joe Murphy are also injured right now, Wayne Henderson is a long-term injury victim, Colin Doyle is only playing occasionally for Birmingham City and Paddy Kenny remains in exile, leaving Keiren Westwood as the only fit and in-form Irish keeper with international experience.
But Millwall man Forde could find himself elevated into the squad as back-up to Westwood as he's been in superb form for the Lions this season, with the second-best clean sheet record in the Championship.
And the career path of the former Derry City man shows that patience is a virtue which will be rewarded.
"I've always been a bit of a late developer so it wouldn't really be a surprise if I did get into the Irish squad for the first time when I'm 31," Forde told the Herald.
"International football is something that has just passed me by for my whole career, I don't know why that is, maybe it's a disadvantage being from Galway because you don't get noticed.
"That has changed a bit recently and it was great to see Greg Cunningham play for Ireland last year, the first Galway man to be capped in 30 years or so. So lads from places like Galway and Donegal are getting more of a chance.
"I've been playing football all my life but I have never been capped at any level, even going back to the schoolboy days, never even made a squad.
"I used to find it frustrating but I have come to deal with it and accept it over the years and just concentrate on my club career.
"Now the door is ajar for me in terms of Ireland, I suppose," he added. "I am not going to get my hopes up about getting the call for the Ireland game in March, I have been around for too long for do that.
"As of today I have had no contact with anyone in the FAI, though they were in touch with my agent to let him know that the FAI scouts had come to see some of my games around Christmas.
"But if the call comes to join the squad for the Macedonia game next month, I'll be over to Dublin in a heartbeat, first one on the plane. It's awful on a personal level for Shay that he'll miss the qualifier next month as he's been such a class keeper for Ireland over the years, but it has given an opportunity to someone else, I don't know for certain if that will be me but if I do get the call from the FAI, it will be one of the biggest moment of my career."
Forde admits that he has been treading water for much of his career until now. He began his senior career with home-town club Galway United (making his league debut against Cork City in 1998), but had unfruitful spells across the water with Barry Town and West Ham before a move home, to Derry City, revived his career and after helping the Candystripes win the FAI Cup in 2006 he moved back to Britain.
A move to Cardiff City worked out badly. "At one stage I was third-choice keeper," he says. "I could easily have jacked it in over there and come home, but I stayed with it. Perseverance is a big thing for me, and I got the rewards."
A move to Millwall in the summer of 2008 was the lift he needed. Forde established himself as No1, helped them win promotion to the Championship and he's loving life at the Lions. "It's gone well for me, Millwall was the best thing to happen my career," says the Galway man.
"I've been in the side for two and a half years now, next weekend will be my 150th consecutive appearance, that is a big milestone for me, and I suppose what's happened to me here -- doing well late in my career -- is a message to younger players that they should never give up.
"At the start of this season the aim was to stabilise ourselves in the division but we're not too far away from the play-offs, if we can get a few wins we'll be up there and maybe challenging for more promotion."