Saturday 3 December 2016

'I'm not going to give up'- Ireland No.1 Randolph determined to be top dog at West Ham

Tom Rooney

Published 09/11/2016 | 15:41

9 November 2016; Darren Randolph of Republic of Ireland during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in the National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
9 November 2016; Darren Randolph of Republic of Ireland during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in the National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The day might arrive when Darren Randolph grows tired of playing understudy to Adrián at West Ham United and decide to seek challenges elsewhere, but for the foreseeable future the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper is determined to make his mark at the Olympic Stadium.

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It’s a little over 13 months since Randolph was unexpectedly thrust into the cauldron of international football, on a night when Ireland would record arguably their most famous and significant win of the last decade.

Germany, the world champions, had come to the Aviva Stadium looking to put Ireland firmly back in their place after they had secured a famous draw thanks to John O’Shea’s late equaliser in the corresponding Euro 2016 qualifier.

Shay Given was forced off with a twisted knee in the latter stages of the first half, and the boy from Balinteer was sprung from the bench

If Randolph was battling the jitters in those heightened circumstances, it was not evident and, as the second period matured, Ireland grew in stature.

With 20 minutes to go, Randolph hoofed a kick deep into German territory, which Shane Long latched onto before driving an unstoppable effort beyond Manuel Neuer.

The win revived Ireland’s waning campaign and, through the playoffs and subsequent European Championships, Randolph has been a constant presence in Martin O’Neill’s side.

However, at club level, he’s been almost exclusively restricted to cup games, with Slaven Bilic still preferring Adrián for the bread and butter of the Premier League.

Randolph has featured in the Europa League (3) and EFL Cup (2), but the 29-year-old is yet to be selected in the league. It’s difficult, he admits, but he’s not yet deterred.

"There'll be a time when it does come - I don't think anyone wants to just sit and not play.

"But for the time being, I'm going to stick at it. I've only been there a season - this is the start of my second season - I'm not just going to give up and leave and walk away from the challenge, I'm going to keep going and see what happens.

"Obviously, I'm not getting as much game-time as I would like, but I knew that was going to be the case anyway, so it's the usual, just get your head down and get working and see what happens."

Randolph has far more immediate concerns to address, with Ireland travelling to Vienna for Saturday’s pivotal World Cup qualification clash against Austria.

Ireland are currently joint top of Group D with Serbia, who travel to Wales on Saturday, so even a point would leave the Boys in Green in a favourable position come the new year.

He’s thoroughly enjoyed what has been a stellar year on the international stage and is hopeful it will continue in that vein at the Ernst Happel Stadium.

"It's been brilliant. A lot of highs - I have got the experience of the Euros, so I have come a very long way in just over a year.

"We took a lot of confidence from the tournament and the performances and got off to a good start in this group, so another positive result on Saturday, hopefully taking points from one of the teams that is going to be there or thereabouts, would help us."

Unlike Ireland, the last round of fixtures were not particularly fruitful for Austria, who managed a draw with Wales before losing to Serbia, and are now in fourth place, three points off the pace.

Randolph reckons Ireland are likely to face a considerable backlash as the Austrians look to get their campaign back on course before it derails completely.

“If you're an away team, you want to go and frustrate the home team as much as possible. Again, it's kind of must-win for them and for us, we'd like to get minimum a point to keep us up there in the group, so there's going to be pressure on both teams.

“They'll obviously want to improve on their last result, so it's going to be a tough game, a tough place to go,” he said.

Meanwhile, at Abbotstown today, James McClean was the only Irish player not to take full part in training as he continues to nurse back injury.  His omission from the session was said to be precautionary and the West Brom winger did a number of warm up exercises while the remainder of the squad trained.

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