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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Building up his hamstrings, playing with confidence: How Forde's game reached new heights

Tipperary star Jason Forde has developed into one of country’s most lethal forwards.

AFTER A NUMBER of seasons trying to nail down a starting role in the Tipperary team, 2014 was the year Seamus Callanan finally found his home as the focal point in the Premier attack.

Seamus Callanan

He became the team’s free-taker and thrived at full-forward with the extra responsibility on his shoulders. Over the next three years, Callanan developed into arguably the top forward in the country, winning three All-Stars and gaining three nominations for Hurler of the Year between 2014 and 2016.

At 24, Jason Forde is a year younger than Callanan was when he took his game to another level five years ago, but he’s following a similar trajectory.

Ironically, it was the back injury that ruled Callanan out for the league that paved the path for Forde’s ascension. After a number of seasons on the periphery of the team and a spell at midfield last year, Forde has made the number 14 jersey his own.

With free-taking duties now part of his remit, Forde bagged 7-72 in a stunning league campaign and became Tipperary’s go-to forward in the process.

PwC April POTM Player of the Month event

The Silvermines ace put his run of form down to the injury-free spell he’s enjoyed over the last six months.

“Getting a run in the team has been a big thing,” he said as he collected PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for April earlier today.

“It’s huge for confidence. The more games you can play at that level, it just brings on your confidence massively.

“Injuries are another big thing. I suffered over the last few years maybe from overload, I don’t know. But between colleges and the training that goes on with Tipp I broke down at the start of the year in a lot of years.

“You’d be going well for the first game or two in the league and then the hamstrings were the big things that were catching me.

Jason Forde celebrates scoring a goal

“At the end of last year I just focused on building them up as much as I could in the gym to get as much into them as I could, and it seems to be working.

“Touch wood, I can stay injury free. Because when you get an injury like that it sets you back. Number one, you’re trying to get back as quickly as you can and, number two, you’re missing out on some of the fitness work and you could be shunted back in for club championships and then it’s just rolling again.

“So if you can get that pre-season under your belt and be injury-free, it’s a big thing.

“Any player would tell you, once the confidence is there you feel good going into games. You have your set routine and you just follow that and then you just let it flow on the day. That’s the way it’s been going so far.”

Jason Forde

The big question is: once Callanan returns from injury, who’ll start at full-forward and who’ll be taking the frees?

The Drom-Inch man has recently returned to club action after undergoing surgery to repair bulging discs in his back and hopes to be fit to see some action against Limerick in their Munster opener on 20 May.

“It’ll be interesting to see,” said Forde. “Obviously we’ll be delighted to get Seamie back. He’s been so consistent over the last couple of years with the scoring he’s done and things like that.

“The leadership that he brings to it as well, he’s a great guy to have in around the place and driving things in training. That’ll be up to management to see what they think.

Seamus Callanan and Jason Forde celebrate at the final whistle

“He’s played most of his hurling at full-forward and he’s done incredible stuff for Tipperary. Management just have to see how things are going and he’s obviously still rehabbing from his injury so it’ll be interesting to see what they do.

“Either way, I’ll be comfortable playing in any of the six forward positions really. Once you’re getting the starting jersey that’s the main thing.

“I suppose (full-forward) has probably been primarily where I would play with the club, between full and centre-forward since I came onto the scene.

“The ball has to come through you to a certain extent and it’s more of a central position. I’m just really enjoying it at the moment.”

A bright league campaign culminated in defeat to Kilkenny in the final, but there are plenty of positives for Michael Ryan to take from the spring. Not least the on-field relationship developing between Forde and John McGrath.

Both players were central figures in UL’s Fitzgibbon winning campaign this year and it’s helped them form a good understanding. McGrath picked out Forde for this goal in the Fitzgibbon Cup final in February:

forde

(Click here if the clip above doesn’t play)

And Forde’s first goal against the Cats in last month’s league final arrived after another fine McGrath assist.

“We’ve all seen what John has done over the last couple of years, he’s been immense since he came onto the scene,” said Forde.

“He’s so clever with the ball. The goal in the league final, I don’t know how many other players would get their head up in that situation and look to give you the pass.

“Most lads might just think, ‘A point is on here, I’ll settle myself into the game.’ But John turned, took it on, saw the opening and gave the pass.

“I suppose the two of us getting to play so many games (together) in the Fitzgibbon, four or five, and then a couple of games with Tipp as well, it should be massive going into the championship.”


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Kevin O'Brien

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