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'Irish pairing phenomenal'



THE banter and contact between members of the Ireland squad has been stepped up a notch in the last few days as existing players in the squad ponder the ramifications of the arrival of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as the new men in charge of our national side.

It could be a nervous time ahead for some of our senior players as the likes of Aiden McGeady, John O'Shea, Anthony Stokes, Paul McShane, Jonathan Walters and Damien Delaney have all had a run-in of some form with Keane, while O'Neill was the Sunderland manager who decided to sell David Meyler and, at Aston Villa, he gave only limited chances to Keiren Westwood and Ciarán Clark.

David Forde's personal experience of Ireland's new management team is more limited, taking in occasional meetings with O'Neill, while Forde was playing for Derry City and against Keane's Ipswich Town side in the Championship. But the Millwall man believes that Keane and O'Neill – an excited Forde describes them as as "phenomenal pairing" – will arrive into the Ireland job with a clean slate, with no agendas and will give everyone a chance.

"The past is the past and, in football, you can't let past history dictate what goes on," Forde told the Herald last night.

"The players in the squad are in the dark as much as anyone else, we just hear bits and pieces on the news or whatever.

"Some of the lads from the squad have been in touch since this all came up about Roy and Martin coming in as the new management team.

"It's hard to stay away from it all, you have family and friends texting you all the time apart from the contact that you'd have between the players in the Irish squad, and I know from contact with people back home that there is a real buzz in Ireland about this appointment. And I know that some of the lads have had dealings with them (Keane and O'Neill) before.

"But we are all grown men. You have issues like this on a week-to-week basis. At club level, people fall out all the time, but you get on with it. You are an adult and a professional, you train during the week and play on a Saturday, no matter what the issues are or whether you have fallen out with someone, if someone has criticised you.

"So I don't see that as being an issue with the new set-up in the Ireland team. Players in this squad with Ireland may have been criticised before by certain people, but you need to be big and strong to play international football and you can't let side issues get to you.


"You need to be adult about it, take criticism on the chin and get on with your career. Holding grudges doesn't do anyone any good," added Forde, who reflected on his own history with the men likely to lead Ireland in the games against Latvia and Poland later this month.

"I have had limited dealings with them. I came across Martin a couple of times when I was at Derry City, he would have come to see some of our European games and as a Derryman, he was an ardent follower of what was going on at the Brandywell. As well as that, I was around Galway United when Martin would have come over with Leicester City for pre-season.

"In terms of Roy, I played against Ipswich when he was manager there, so our paths would have crossed, but that's about all.

"From what I have read, it seems they will want to bring Seamus McDonagh in with them as goalkeeping coach, though I don't know any more than what I have read. I never worked with Seamus but I know what work he did at Galway United and other keepers who have worked with him at other clubs rate him very highly as a coach."

Newly-appointed managers of the international team tend to make rapid decisions on the way they want to play, and the people they want to use.

Someone can have been a stalwart under one manager and find himself ignored by the new man in charge: someone like Jonathan Douglas can be rated highly enough by one manager (Steve Staunton) to start a number of European Championship qualifiers and never kick a ball again under the next boss.

And Forde believes that the new management duo will cause everyone in the current panel to lift their game.

"It's a phenomenal pairing, two of the biggest names in the game and it can only benefit all of us to have Martin as manager and Roy as his assistant, if it does indeed come to pass. It's something that will be really exciting to be involved in and I think even the prospect of it happening has lifted the whole country," Forde added.

"It's going to be interesting. A new manager comes in with new ideas and that will keep everyone on their toes, everyone will be trying to impress enough to get into the starting XI.

"He will come in with a fresh approach. Every manager has a different opinion on players to the man who was in the job before them, that's what the game is about. So they will have different ideas about players, different ways to play the game.


"This is a big lift for Irish football, there hasn't been an appointment like this for a long, long time.

"I think this is the lift we need to get us to France in 2016. With the top two in the group qualifying, qualification is very achievable for us.

"In the last campaign we were right in there for a good while and were within touching distance but the way it ended up was very disappointing, but the failure in the last campaign and the arrival of the new manager has given us a new hunger and desire to go on and get to the Euros."

Meanwhile, Forde's own form at club level has seen a lift in recent weeks, Millwall moving away from the relegation zone thanks to results like last week's draw with league leaders Burnley.

"Burnley are a good side but we have managed to get good draws against top teams like Burnley and QPR in the last few weeks, we're a tough team to play against and things are looking up," he says.

"I am happy with my own form, we are slowly moving up the table and things are looking a lot better than they were a couple of months ago," added the Ireland number one.