'The stuff of dreams' - Ireland's David Forde on taking the long road to the top

Ireland's oldest-ever debutant has finally seen his chance come after early career setbacks. He's determined to savour it
Maybe it all came about too quickly first time around. David Forde's early career showed much promise. The Galway man moved from his hometown club to Barry Town in order to force a move to a big British club.

Half a season later, at only 22 years old, West Ham United snapped him up. Playing second fiddle to England's number one, David James, an ambitious Forde moved to the Hammers with the aim of playing first-team Premier League football, but it didn't quite work out that way. A couple of loan spells followed but he was unable to gain a place in the West Ham squad.

"Those things only made me stronger," he said at the launch of the 2013 Eflow FAI Summer Soccer Schools at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday. "I always kept believing and didn't let anyone knock that."

Forde retreated to more familiar surroundings by re-singing for Galway United in the League of Ireland. A successful term at Derry City a season later was just the tonic. The talented shot stopper, now creeping towards his late 20s, impressed sufficiently to put himself in the shop window once again but frustrating spells at Cardiff City, Luton Town and Bournemouth halted his progress.

June 5 2008, however, was a pivotal day in Forde's career. Upon being released by Cardiff after only seven appearances at the club, he signed a two-year deal with League One side Millwall. Forde started on the opening day of the 2008-09 season and hasn't looked back since. He has played nearly 200 times for the club, including League One play-off finals at Wembley in 2009 and 2010, and, most recently, the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic.

In February of this year, Giovanni Trapattoni announced that Forde would be the man to take over the coveted number one jersey for Ireland, held by Shay Given for the previous 16 years. The oldest-ever Irish competitive international debutant, at the age of 33, kept a clean sheet against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden in Malmo. Forde allows himself to savor such occasions.

"I've always been relaxed with big games," he said. "I've waited long enough for the opportunity, now I'm going to enjoy it."

As he reaches the peak of what could be described as a career renaissance, Forde's early struggles give him a sense of perspective of what he has managed to achieve.

His Millwall side are involved in a relegation scrap to stay in the Championship. This week they played out a tense goalless draw against Crystal Palace. They travel to Pride Park to take on Derby this weekend needing a point to guarantee safety. It is a challenge that Forde is taking in his stride. "At least the season hasn't petered out, It's all fun and games," said Forde.

Back on the international front, he could not withhold his excitement when discussing the upcoming fixture against England at Wembley; "The stuff of dreams," is how he describes it. "Some of the biggest results and games for Ireland have come against England. Not to mention the chance to play in Wembley for the second time in a couple of weeks."

Not bad for a player who less than a year ago was battling hard to make it as the third-choice goalkeeper in the squad for Euro 2012.