Forde feted on fabulous night
Special occasion honours a Wexford footballing great
The occasion was titled 'Matty - a genius with the ball', and the great and good of Gaelic football both in Wexford and further afield assembled in the Ashdown Park Hotel in Gorey on Saturday night to honour the career of probably our greatest-ever player, Matty Forde.
The car park was full to capacity well before the designated 'throw-in' time as the crowds travelled in throngs to celebrate Matty and his eye-watering feats.
It was fitting that he entered the stage to a standing ovation led by the theme tune to the film 'The Greatest Showman' - for he was surely our greatest showman.
With Liam Spratt on M.C. duties for the four hours of reminiscence and general chat, there was a nice touch when Matty was first joined by his mother Nancy, father Paddy, brothers Pat and Tom, and sisters Mary, Lena and Anne. It is fair to say they are immensely proud of what he has accomplished.
A collection of some famous names from the national spectrum appeared on stage throughout the night, with ex-Dublin midfielder Ciarán Whelan first up as he remembered some great battles with Wexford in the first decade of this century, a period for Dublin football far removed from their all-conquering status of today.
Meath legends Trevor Giles and Colm O'Rourke lamented how the quality of the game has changed for the worse in recent times. O'Rourke also noted how the great players had a hard edge to them, and indeed that two-footed maestros such as Matty are a rare breed.
Giles wasn't the only former 'Footballer of the Year' to feature on the night, as Kerry's Tomás O Sé left a video link to pay tribute to his good friend, as did Colm 'Gooch' Cooper and Maurice Fitzgerald, while Armagh's Stevie McDonnell was delighted to make the journey down.
Offaly's Shane Sullivan was a guest too, and he revealed how their friendship grew in the years following their infamous incident in the 2006 Leinster semi-final.
The esteem with which Matty is held across all sport was summed up by rugby stars Gordon D'Arcy and Tadhg Furlong also paying tribute via video, with the latter revealing how Forde was a hero of his growing up, like so many more of a similar age present at the event.
Horse trainer Jim Bolger and ex-Wexford and Leinster footballer Dr. Tom Foley were also effusive in their praise.
Many of Forde's managers throughout the years also made an appearance, with Pat Roe, Paul Bealin and Jason Ryan from Wexford, and Gerry Farrell and Kevin O'Brien from Kilanerin, all remarking that his dedication to training was his greatest asset.
Former G.A.A. President Seán Kelly considered Matty a twin of Maurice Fitzgerald, while one word summed up journalist Vincent Hogan's appreciation of him - 'sensational'.
But perhaps the highlight of the night was the arrival of the legendary Micheál O Muircheartaigh, who reduced the audience to a reverent silence.
A band of his ex-Wexford team-mates were among the audience, as were a chunk of the current panel, together with manager Paul McLoughlin.
There was a moving tribute too to the late Scott Doran, with John Hegarty and Anthony Masterson sharing their memories of the sadly-departed free-scoring ace, while county Chairman Derek Kent and Vice-Chairman Micheál Martin presented Matty with a special souvenir golden football to thank him for everything he did for Wexford.
The final word must go to O Muircheartaigh, who adapted the words to the poem 'Down by the Glenside' thus:
'I passed on my way, God be praised that I met her.
Be life long or short, sure I'll never forget her.
We may have brave men, but we'll never have better.
Glory O, Glory O, to the brave Matty Forde.'