Forde in pole position to be Ireland’s number one

David Forde has leapfrogged Keiren Westwood in the competition to succeed Shay Given as Ireland’s number one.

Having informed Given that he will effectively call on him only in an emergency, Giovanni Trapattoni has now decided that, as things currently stand, Millwall’s Forde is better placed than Sunderland’s Westwood to fill the boots of the Donegal legend.

Not only is Forde in line to play against Poland this week, but the manager answered in the affirmative when asked if the Galwegian would also start were Ireland playing against Sweden in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

Of course, that crunch game won’t happen until late March but it seems it will take Westwood breaking into the Sunderland team to put him back in poll position between the posts. By contrast, former Galway United and Derry City netminder Forde is playing regularly in the Championship, something which Trapattoni – who watched him in action against Hull on Saturday — insists is of special significance for a goalkeeper.

Speaking at the squad’s training base in Malahide yesterday, the manager said: “Usually I don’t worry if an outfield player is playing or not, but for the goalkeeper it is a particularly delicate position. He is a player who is alone in goal.

“That is a different psychological situation and it is more difficult. Sure, Westwood is here with us and I hope in the near future he can play for his club again. In fact, I told him before that it would be better for him if he could change club and then he could play. But I think it is important now to give Forde this opportunity.”

With a clear eye on the tests to come against Sweden and Austria, Trapattoni also revealed that Richard Dunne is due to travel again to the United States so that the surgeon who operated on his hip and groin problems can assess the defender’s latest injury setback.

According to the manager, Dunne was still anxious to join the Irish squad this week, despite having suffered the groin flare-up which prevented him making a comeback for Aston Villa last week.

“He wishes to be here but he has to be careful for March,” said Trapattoni.

“I said to him, ‘wait because it’s better you make another check’. I hope he rests for one week more and that, after the check-up, he can come back. It’s enough he plays one or two games [before Sweden] and then he can be ready for us.”

While Trapattoni expressed disappointment that a hamstring problem will prevent Anthony Pilkington making his senior Ireland debut on Wednesday, he said this won’t in any way diminish the player’s chances of being involved in the March qualifiers. It’s also clear that, as the squad continues to evolve, he has high hopes for Derby County’s Conor Sammon, who looks in with strong chance of starting against Poland.

Trapattoni has always spoken wistfully about Caleb Folan’s failure to live up to the manager’s expectations at international level and, in Sammon, he seems to think he’s found someone who can fill that particular role.

“He is not only physically strong but also fast,” he said. “Usually the big strikers are strong but don’t always have a refined technique, but he does. You remember Folan. He held the ball up and allowed the team to come up and also open the space. It can help us pass the ball when the opponent is pressing.”

For the ex-Wigan 26-year-old, there was a sense of coming full circle at Gannon Park yesterday since that’s where Sammon played his youth football with Malahide United. And the call-up, he feels, vindicates his willingness to drop down a tier in England.

“When I was at Wigan, it was quite frustrating at times,” he said.

“It’s great saying you’re playing in the Premier League but if you’re a bit-part player it can be frustrating. It made the decision easy to go to Derby. There was a manager there [Nigel Clough] who had a lot of belief in me and chased me up. It was too good an opportunity to turn down and I knew it was going to improve me as a player.”

For Sammon who, just a few years ago, was trying to juggle playing in the League of Ireland with a job in the bank until Derry City gave him his chance to play full-time football, his senior international call-up is quite a milestone.

“I always had belief in my own ability to play against the best players and play at the highest level,” he said. “And I’m delighted now that I have this chance.”

Meanwhile, Trapattoni confirmed yesterday that Aiden McGeady has been ruled out of the Poland game with an ankle injury.

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