AT THE BEGINNING of another two-year cycle geared towards qualification to the next European Championships, David Forde remains optimistic of realising his dream to represent Ireland at a major tournament.
At 33, the Galway man became the oldest player to make his senior competitive debut for Ireland against Sweden last year and went on to earn plaudits for an outstanding performance in the defeat to Germany in Cologne at the end of the unsuccessful World Cup campaign.
Now under the new management team of Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh, Forde finds himself in pole position to keep hold of the number one jersey with Keiren Westwood currently injured.
Also named in the squad for next week’s friendly with Serbia are Darren Randolph of Birmingham and Newcastle back-up keeper Rob Elliot while, as of yet, there has been no international return for Shay Given.
“You’ve got new management in and always when there’s a change of manager you’ve got to prove yourself and I suppose that’s no different at international level,” Millwall goalkeeper Forde said yesterday.
“The high calibre of goalkeepers like Shay, Darren and Keiren means there is an abundance of keepers there.
“It keeps you on your toes and that’s one way to keep hold of the shirt which is what I want to do.”
Under Giovanni Trapattoni, Forde was brought to Euro 2012 as the third choice stopper and watched on from the bench as Croatia, Spain and Italy all put goals past Ireland to leave them with three defeats and early elimination.
Although he will be 36 by the time the finals in France come around in two years, Forde believes the incentive is there to qualify after Sunday’s draw.
It’s huge because it gives you a real focus and a real drive. I’ve been to the Euros as a number three and sat there and watched it. It gave me that real drive to say ‘I’d love to play in the Euros’. What an occasion.
“It would’ve been nice to get to the World Cup this year but it wasn’t to be and we went close. We’ve got an opportunity to qualify with two teams going through and maybe a third spot up for grabs.
“I think it will be quite tight. We played Poland and drew 0-0 away which was a decent result, and we’ve beaten them at home.
“Plus we’ve been quite good at home as well in recent years but Scotland seem to be having a revival in recent years under Gordon Strachan and they will feel they have got a great opportunity to qualify as well.
“So I think it will go down to the wire.”
Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
First up in qualifying are trips to Georgia, Germany and Scotland as well as a home tie against new boys Gibraltar.
Irish fans have already been busy planning their next away trips and Forde says he personally can’t wait to take on the Tartan Army in a game which could be played at Celtic’s Parkhead with Hampden Park getting redeveloped for the Commonwealth Games.
“Parkhead would be phenomenal,” he says. “As any young Irish kid growing up, you’ve always got your team and you second team and one of them is always Celtic. To get the opportunity to play there woud be pretty awesome.
“You see down through the years Champions League games being played there and top players in the world saying it’s the best atmosphere in the world so that would be a fantastic opportunity.”