THE joy of keeping a clean sheet in Sweden in his first competitive game as Republic of Ireland goalkeeper gave way to the despair of conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Austria in Dublin during what has been a memorable week for Galway native David Forde.
While a hectic six days ended with the frustration of conceding a 93rd minute equaliser to David Alaba at the Aviva Stadium, the Millwall ‘keeper could at least console himself that he was not at fault for either of the two goals which have put a serious dent into Ireland’s prospects of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil next year.
Forde (33) has waited a long time to earn a regular starting berth on the Irish team, having made his debut in a friendly against Italy two years ago, and produced a near flawless performance – which included three fine saves – in Stockholm on Friday.
Forde produced two superb saves inside the first 25 minutes and marshalled a well-organised back four, his right glove denying a shot on goal for Kim Kallstrom. He produced a terrific reaction save to deny Sweden’s Rasmus Elm in injury time and punched the air in delight after holding an attack featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoreless over 90 minutes.
Ireland needed to build on that draw with a home win over the Austrians and battled back bravely after Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark hesitated before giving the ball away cheaply, allowing Martin Harnik to open the scoring after just 11 minutes.
There was nothing Forde could do about the goal, after Clark had left him cruelly exposed, and Alaba’s late strike took a wicked deflection off Sean St Ledger before flying past the Galway man. Otherwise, Forde performed well and he produced a memorable save to deny Harnik in the 54th minute.
“It’s been a phenomenal few weeks, with some golden moments,” Forde told Tribune Sport this week. “We had three big results with Millwall just before I came back to the Irish set-up. We managed to beat Blackburn Rovers away in an FA Cup replay, to get to Wembley, before we beat Charlton in the Championship in the local derby.
“I went to Sweden on the back of a fantastic week. I have always kept plugging away. I have always kept at it. I’ve always had belief in my ability. It’s been a promising start at international level, but I still think I’ve an awful lot to do and learn.”
Determination has been the hallmark of Forde’s career. He made his League of Ireland debut with Galway United in 1999. His form was rewarded with moves to Welsh side Barry Town and, later, West Ham United. But he never got a look in for the Hammers’ first team.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.