It was a season to remember for Cathal Forde. The Galway native made his full debut for Connacht, signed a first senior contract, and was part of the Corinthians side that made it into the semi-finals of Energia AIL Division 2B.
On top of that, Cathal’s contribution to Corinthians’ run was recently recognised at the Energia All-Ireland League Awards, where he was announced as the Division 2B Player of the Year.
Despite an excellent club season, where he scored seven tries and had a goal kicking success rate of 84% (42/50), the centre was not expecting to be picking up the honour.
“I had no idea. I found out the day before (the awards). It was a surprise, but definitely a good one. I knew it was a good season though and it was great to get the game time with Corinthians, but I didn’t expect (the award) to be honest”, said the centre when discussing the accolade.
Corinthians' season ended after a late Greystones try in the semi-finals dashed their hopes of promotion.
“We started off pretty slow this season, but we then got into a good run of wins and the opportunity was there of getting into the playoffs and perhaps getting promotion, but Greystones were just very good on the day”, Forde said discussing his club’s journey.
He was also keen to pay tribute to Corinthians outgoing head coach, JP Cooney, who will be stepping down from his position after this season.
“JP Cooney is obviously a great coach, but he’s also just a good person”.
Although he is just at the start of professional playing journey, the man who is affectionally known as ‘Fordey’ has already made a foray into the world of coaching.
He was part of the Corinthians backroom team that won both the U-16 Division 1 league title and the Bank of Ireland U16 Cup Final this year.
For Forde, this was all about giving back to the grassroots side of the game that served him so well.
Discussing this, he said: “Myself and (fellow Connacht Academy player) Eoin de Buitléar, we’re helping out the under 16s with Simon Kavanagh and Niall Browne."
“Niall Browne would have coached us growing up, so it’s nice to be giving back there. They’re a good bunch of lads and they have a few who are breaking into the Connacht underage system."
Although Forde will be aiming to light up the Sportsground in the coming months, he recognises that it is the Corinthians club in Cloonacauneen, Co. Galway where it all started: "I think under-nines was my first year and Corinthians is a very community focussed club, so I'm always happy to be back there helping out".
Cathal signed his first professional contract with Connacht in January of this year, making his debut later that month against Glasgow Warriors.
Despite Connacht failing to get the better of the Scottish side on the day, Forde impressed, slotting over each one of his kicks at goal.
“I thought I did alright, but obviously, the result didn’t go our way”, was his humble summation of a proud day for him and his family.
Looking forward to next season, the U20 Ireland International recognises that bigger challenges await.
“Hopefully I will win more game time with the seniors and break into the squad a bit more in the new season. I know there are other quality centres there, but I am looking forward to the challenge” he added.