Despite not having made his Republic of Ireland debut until he was in his thirties, Millwall goalkeeper and Galway native, David Forde never lost hope that he would one day get the chance to pull on the green jersey, or the goalie’s equivalent, at least, at a major championships.
“Since I’ve started playing football, I’ve always had the ambition and the dream of playing for my country. I always felt when I got into the squad, and with the group of lads that were there, a great bunch of lads, we certainly had a great opportunity and I always felt confident that we would qualify for the Euros.”
David’s debut against Northern Ireland last year was a special moment, but his first start, keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory against manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s native Italy in a friendly last summer, was “a very, very special moment”, and lining up for Amhrán na bhFiann was an experience he says “brought a tear to the eye”.
The former Galway United player says he has received plenty of calls, texts and emails since Il Trap announced his squad last week. “They’re all over the moon, and delighted for me and, and they’ve just said to me that it’s nice to have someone at the Euros that’s so close to home,” he says.
And he has nothing but praise for the mercurial and cryptic Italian at the helm of team Ireland this summer.
“He’s just a man that commands so much respect for what he’s done in the game and the way he conducts his business and the way he handles himself. I’ve nothing but admiration for the man and I’m very grateful that he’s selected me.”
Though David was, he says, “quietly confident” that he would be selected, he was not about to take things for granted and remains modest, but understandably proud of the fact that he’s the first Galwegian to represent his country at a major soccer tournament.
“That’s what I’ve been told anyway, so yeah, it’s a nice little personal achievement, and it’s great for Galway football, and great for the country in general that we are in the Euros and hopefully we’ll give everybody the lift that at the moment, the way the country is, they could do with.”
He may be first choice between the posts at Millwall, but David is realistic about his prospects of getting game time in Poland and, hopefully, Ukraine, this summer.
“I’m going away under no illusions. Shay’s been the number one for the past ten years and he’s been a great servant to the country.
“But…you just never know, so I’ve just got to prepare like I do any other time, like I do with my club. It’s part of your job that you’ve got to prepare to play and you never know what’s round the corner and I’m fresh and I’m fit and I’m probably in the best shape of my career,” he says.
With the Italians, Croatia and World Champions Spain providing Ireland’s group opposition, many have already written off the boys in green’s chances, but David remains bullish about the team’s prospects.
“It’s going to be a very, very tough group, but, with Ireland being underdogs, I think it suits us down to the ground. I think we could surprise a few and maybe get out of the group.”
At 32 years old, David will be among the more senior members of the squad, but, with keepers such as Brad Friedel playing into their forties, there’s every chance Euro 2012 may not be his last international championships.
“We’re going to crack on with the Euros first and see where that leads us and, hopefully, then it would be nice to qualify for a World Cup as well, and age-wise, being a keeper, yeah, you’ve seen keepers 42, 43 and beyond, so I’ve still a long way to go yet.”