By Paul Keane
In-form Tipperary forward Jason Forde has described his build-up to this year’s Munster championship as poles apart from the chaos of 12 months ago.
The powerful full-forward found himself at the centre of a suspension saga when banned for two matches after a clash with Davy Fitzgerald.
Forde’s ban was eventually downgraded to one for ‘contributing to a melee’, while Fitzgerald got eight weeks, though it still left a sour taste with the Tippman.
Forde, named as the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for April, said he couldn’t believe it at first when boss Michael Ryan informed him of the ban.
“Mick actually rang me a couple of days after it,” said Forde. “When he was telling me down the phone I thought to myself: ‘Is he actually being serious here, or what’s the story?’
“Unfortunately it was serious and we ended up having to go up to Croke Park a couple of times as well. It definitely wasn’t ideal. Looking back, the way it panned out, you obviously wish you didn’t get into that altercation. These things happen. Davy Fitzgerald, in fairness to him, he came out and said there wasn’t much in it.
“I think most people would be in agreement that there wasn’t much in it but I suppose the GAA have a job to do as well and they made a decision.
“That was kind of hard to take at the time. To be dealing with all that stuff, the possibility of being suspended.
“I didn’t know whether it was or it wasn’t and I ended up playing in the league final but then you find out that you do (have to serve a suspension) and you miss the first round of the Championship.”
The flashpoint occurred in the league semi-final when Fitzgerald burst onto the field, initially to remonstrate with referee Diarmuid Kirwan.
He ended up clashing with Niall O’Meara and Forde.
Fitzgerald angered Tipperary fans further when he admitted afterwards he was “trying to get my team going” by bursting onto the field.
“I suppose I had a decision as well where I didn’t have to (get involved),” said Forde. “I could have turned around and gone away. It’s just unfortunate the way it did turn out.
“Davy is a hugely passionate guy and you can see that he brings that with him in everything that he is involved in. He wouldn’t have wanted a player to be suspended and I wouldn’t have wanted him to be suspended either.
“I think we were both in agreement that it was just a silly kind of altercation and it was unfortunate that we both did end up getting suspended over it.”
Forde blamed social media users for blowing the situation out of proportion and leaving disciplinary officials with no choice but to intervene.
“The whole thing with social media, it kind of steamrolled from there,” said Forde.
“The cameras picked it up and there was more made out of it than probably needed to be. The CCCC have their job to do, they have to pick up on incidents that happen. They just ran with it from there then.”
Forde and Tipperary find themselves in a far healthier situation one year on. They’re reeling from another league final defeat, this time to Kilkenny, but believe they’re building nicely towards the Championship.
“Now versus last year, they are worlds apart,” said Forde.
“Against Galway (in the league final) last year, it was a whitewash. We didn’t show up at all. It can be hard to bounce back from that.
“This year, taking the league overall, we have a lot of positives that we’ll be able to take from it.”
Tipp’s injury problems are clearing up nicely in advance of their May 20 Munster showdown with Limerick. Seamus Callanan missed the entire league after back surgery but has resumed training and is expected to form a lethal partnership with Forde.
The Silvermines man rubbished talk that the pair, both powerful full-forwards and free-takers, aren’t suited to playing together.
“I wouldn’t put too much weight in that theory, to be honest,” he said.
“We actually haven’t played a whole pile together. Over the last couple of years I’ve been more coming off the bench and stuff so I don’t know where that theory would even come from.
“Seamie is a top class player who has done a lot for us over the last few years. Personally, I would see no problem with us playing together.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.