Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 September 2019

Why former Ireland keeper David Forde chose another professional path in life

Former Ireland International goalkeeper David Forde during a media event at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. David Forde will be honored at Aviva Stadium at Ireland v Switzerland on Thursday, September 5. Secure your seat via www.fai.ie/tickets. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Former Ireland International goalkeeper David Forde during a media event at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. David Forde will be honored at Aviva Stadium at Ireland v Switzerland on Thursday, September 5. Secure your seat via www.fai.ie/tickets. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

David Forde has chosen, at the age of 39, to walk away from football and find another path in life that will allow him to keep his hand in the game, so to speak.

The Galway native's contribution to the Ireland squad - 24 senior caps between 2011 and 2016 - will be recognised when he is the guest of honour at the Euro 2020 game at home to Switzerland next week.

"To think we've got a couple of tickets to sit up in the presidential box, I'll probably sit up with my mother, it's going to be such a beautiful way to honour my dad's passing and to honour my family and everything else," Forde says of his dad, Patrick, who died three months ago.

Forde also retains a link with the game through the life coaching enterprise he set up after he quit playing in May, working with young players at Crystal Palace, for example, preparing them for the harsh nature of a career in football, though he also works with those outside of football.

But he's also aware that he's lucky in that he chose to retire at 39 while his former Ireland team-mate David Meyler has today announced that, after a long battle with a knee injury, he's decided to quit professional football.

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David Forde in action for Ireland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
"Because we grow up in this sport, from eight years of age until I was 38, 39 that was a whole sense of identity, that was my individuality, that was everything, it was all I knew," Forde said in Dublin today.

"So now all of a sudden that is actually being swiped away from me, taken away from me.

"So that change and transition hasn't happened naturally - it's been forced on you because of an injury or something like that.

"I was lucky enough that I've been blessed to get 20 years out of a career which, they say, is on average if you get seven or eight years out of a professional football career, you've done extremely well. So to get 20 years, I'm extremely blessed.

"It's very sad to hear that about David (Meyler), because he is such a beautiful man. He's such an athlete, he's such a sportsman, he's a proud Cork man. He loves his hurling, loves his GAA, loves playing soccer.

"I remember when he wore the armband for the first time - when Martin O'Neill handed him the armband he was walking around like he was 10 foot tall and stuff.

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David Meyler has retired from football. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
"So it's sad day for him and a sad day for football, but I've no doubt his family and his dad -- they're strong people and David is a strong-minded man - so I'm sure he'll find something that he will transition into again. But it isn't an easy time. It's understanding our sense of identity."

Forde is a thinker when it comes to football, a career that almost passed him by as he recalls working as a brand merchandiser for "chocolate bars and drinks" in his native Galway in the period between his first cross-channel spell and his revival at Derry City.

Cycling around the city with 5am starts for work was good pre-season training, he jokes.

He decided that when he left his last club, Cambridge United, in the summer, he wanted to do something different, as he had been preparing for a life outside of the game by going to university when he was at Portsmouth.

"It began a few years back when I realised I was coming to the twilight of my career, there was a part of me that had such an amazing time with such an amazing journey in football but I wanted to explore other parts of myself, my personality and character," he says.

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Martin O’Neill with Roy Keane during their days on the Ireland sideline. Photo: Sportsfile
"So what is the best thing I can do here, what can I use from the many great managers I had? Trapattoni and Martin O'Neill, working with the likes of Roy Keane and other great managers and heroes, how can I best interact that into my future?

"I felt that the coaching/management realm was not for me, with my strengths and attributes I was always sensitive and philosophical and a deep person, I wanted to explore that side of myself, that led me to go and study executive coaching and personal development at the University of Portsmouth.

"I went on to train with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, I am a senior practicioner there and on their governing body, I started to unfold those layers within myself, I was drawn to different philosophies and practices, different cultures, I was always researching that and it all married together, it was like a beautiful matrimony into what I am doing now, it keeps me involved in the game."

David Forde will be honoured at Aviva Stadium at Ireland v Switzerland on Thursday, September 5. Secure your seat via www.fai.ie/tickets

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