From Ballingarry to Stamford Bridge

Owen Hickey talks to Limerick teenager Anthony Forde after he made his debut for Wolves against Chelsea last weekend

Owen Hickey talks to Limerick teenager Anthony Forde after he made his debut for Wolves against Chelsea last weekend

WHEN Limerick teenager Anthony Forde joined Wolves as a raw talent three years ago, lining out in the Premier League was but a distant dream.

This moment arrived for the 18-year-old last weekend, when he made his league debut for Wolves at a packed Stamford Bridge.

Replacing full-back Ronald Zubar for the last 15 minutes against Chelsea, Forde became Wolves’ first outfield Academy graduate to make his Premier League debut under manager Mick McCarthy.

“It was massive. Probably one of the best days of my life. It was just an amazing feeling getting on the pitch. I got on for 15 minutes and the clock just flew when I got on,” Forde said.

“I was told I was going to be travelling with the squad. I had travelled before for Premier League games but I had never been on the bench. My name was called out for the squad in the hotel and when he named me I was delighted,” he added.

Taking his place on the right-wing, Forde impressed with his direct play, taking on English international Ashley Cole on a number of occasions and even drawing praise from McCarthy after the game, who said he “looked confident” and that he had “high hopes for him.”

“At the game, I was told to warm up and I thought ‘I fancy getting on’. Then he (McCarthy) told me I was coming on. It was just madness, brilliant though!

“I got two crosses in all right. It was just brilliant being up against the likes of Ashley Cole and Terry and Lampard.”

Playing in front of a crowd of over 40,000 is sure to be a moment many people will never experience. Forde was just happy to let it all sink in.

“It was just an amazing feeling looking up at that many people watching the game.

“When I got on, I was just focused on the game. I didn’t think of the crowd or anything like that. I just wanted to get on the ball and do well.”

Up next for the first team is a home game with Sunderland, but Forde is keeping his feet firmly grounded and focusing on his role with the reserve side.

After being named Academy player of the year last season, he has gone on to nail down a place on the right-wing for the reserves, starting every game for the second string this season.

A starring display in a goaless draw against Arsenal reserves last week was among the highlights of what has been a promising start to the season for the youngster.

“I’ll see how things go. Every day I just want to keep working.

“I didn’t think when I first moved over that I would be playing against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when I just turned 18. Thankfully, I got the chance Saturday and it was brilliant.”

Last summer, Forde was an integral part of the Republic of Ireland U-19 team which made it to the semi-finals of the European Championships.

Recently, he got his first goals for his country with strikes against Bulgaria and Russia.

“That was some feeling. It was just brilliant scoring for my country, absolutely class.”

With a strong Irish contingent at the club - internationals Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt, Stephen Ward and Kevin Foley all ply their trade at Molineux - Forde is made to feel right at home.

“The Irish lads have been brilliant. They’ve been top-class. They’ve given me advice and told me to keep doing what I’m doing.

“I came over at 15. It’s hard but I’m used to it now. It’s a big commitment to move away from home, but hopefully it will all pay off,” he said.

Forde’s father Noel was understandably thrilled for his son after making his bow for the senior side.“It was a great experience for him but he’ll have to keep his feet on the ground.

“He has to keep working hard now and hope he gets another chance. He was over the moon when he got on and I’d say he was hoping the whistle wouldn’t blow for full-time!” he said.

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