It’s indicative that there is a goalkeeping problem for the Republic of Ireland when there is such uncertainty and debate over who the teams’ first choice 'keeper should be. Wednesday’s friendly international with Poland will provide the opportunity to try something new. And with crucial qualifiers next month with Sweden and Austria, it's hoped this apparent leap of faith will bear fruit of some ilk.
After the drama of announcing his availability for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, Shay Given now suffers the relative ignominy of a public but polite shunning. We’ll use you if we really need you, it’s inferred.
If we really, really need you.
Ironically if Given had not have retired in the wake of the European Championships, there is no doubt he would still be Ireland’s number one. His bench-bound demotion under Paul Lambert at Villa Park would have realistically had no real impact. He would have continued in the Irish goal.
Kieren Westwood’s similar position at Sunderland behind Simon Mignolet was never going to stir up a regular international start ahead of the Donegal stalwart. But Given must now accept the retrospective mistake. It wasn’t an unreasonable choice or even a selfish one. It just turned out to be the wrong one.
Back to Westwood and back to a mild night in October when a marauding German team simply romped home to victory. The common consensus was that Westwood’s hands were tied; figuratively speaking. Literally speaking; it probably would have made little difference.
But a team, they say, is built from the back and on that basis confidence is built from the same foundation. With that David Forde comes into the reckoning. And this doesn’t feel like a “let’s give him a shot or he’ll stop turning up” start that can come with a friendly. This feels like a bona fide audition ahead of crucial competitive matches.
At 33 Forde is experienced. And with 26 starts for Millwall this season in a team vying for a play-off berth he has what Westwood doesn’t; essential first team exposure. And with it injury and form problems appear to have been laid to rest.
Trapattoni assessed the importance of the need for regular starts on a goalkeeper’s mental state. Earlier this week he told what is now a regularly cynical Irish media when in his audience; “I don’t worry about an outfield player if he is not playing for his club, but a goalkeeper is alone on the pitch and then it’s more difficult psychologically.” He could however, well have a point.
With that in mind the logic for Given’s and Westwood’s position makes sense. And their club positions appear unlikely to change in the short term at least. Transfer window moves would have been helpful; however their wasn’t much likelihood of that happening.
Wednesday night will see Galway native Forde get what is realistically his biggest chance and possibly his last chance to stake a claim to be Ireland’s first choice goalkeeper over the next few years. The much travelled keeper has had his most successful club spell since joining Millwall in 2008.
For Forde though tomorrow is not an indifferent friendly international.
It’s a very real opportunity.