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Randolph's focus is on qualification, not playing fancy football

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Darren Randolph during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Darren Randolph during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Darren Randolph during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

The expansive football can wait as, for now, it's all about qualification, as far as Ireland keeper Darren Randolph is concerned.

The Ireland camp are today in Cardiff, preparing for tomorrow's Nations League clash with Wales. The Cardiff City Stadium was the scene for one of the key results for the Irish team in the World Cup qualification bid, that 1-0 win last year, a smash and grab enterprise that worked out well in the end.

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Daryl Horgan during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Daryl Horgan during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Daryl Horgan during Republic of Ireland squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Since then the away days have not been so good, three games (Denmark, Turkey and France), two defeats and no goals scored.

Martin O'Neill will, no doubt, remind his players in the build-up to the game that they can win in Cardiff as they have already done so, but for Randolph, not much will change about the style of play.

"It's horses for courses. It's whatever suits your team. Every team has naturally gifted footballers that are better on the ball than others so if they're good on the ball you're not going to play long ball," says the keeper.

"If you've got people good at long ball, you're not going to try and pass. Horses for courses, you do what's best with what you have. You can say what you want, but it's about over the whole campaign. You need to build up points over the whole campaign to get to where you want to finish.

"There's no point going out there, going hell for leather, and you lose the game and you're not in a good position or don't qualify. It's not just that game that matters, it's several games overall.

"In tournament football, you're there so you deserve to be there whereas when you're trying to qualify you can't be too reckless and, let's say, after three games your qualification is over," added the Middlesbrough keeper, enjoying a good run of form at club level.

Like Stephen Ward, Randolph has not played for Ireland since the debacle at home to Denmark in the World Cup.

Withdrawal

A lot has happened since then with retirements of key players (Wes Hoolahan, John O'Shea) and, more recently, the withdrawal of their services by Declan Rice and Harry Arter.

Randolph says he's in the dark over Arter's situation but he insists that Rice, who was a team-mate at West Ham some time ago, would be welcomed back without hesitation, despite his flirtation with England.

"He's only 19 so he's obviously decided to take a step back and take some time. It's probably tough, being a 19-year-old, and he's having those decisions. But it's really down to him to choose and do whatever he feels is best for him," says the Bray native.

"If he comes back in. He's back in, he's been part of the squad. Forget about and get back on the pitch and perform.

"If he decides to come back and he's playing well, I don't think anyone will be worrying about it too much. They'll say 'Thank God, he chose to play.'

"Given that he played under-age all the way up, as well, I was a little bit surprised. It happens. I've seen players in the past. It happens when you've young talent. Everyone wants a piece," added Randolph who admits he was contacted by the USA about playing for them (his father is American).

"I already had it in my head I wanted to play for Ireland. And I wouldn't have been let back into Bray if I did play for them," he joked.

Not all of the Irish contingent in the Championship this season have enjoyed the campaign to date.

Daryl Horgan, Eunan O'Kane and Ryan Manning needed to leave their clubs to get games; James McClean, Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan are injured; and the Reading contingent (David Meyler, John O'Shea, Paul McShane) find that their club is bottom of the table, two points from six games.

But Middlesbrough have started well, Randolph playing his part with a string of good displays.

"We conceded two in the first game against Millwall and then five clean sheets. It's been a very good start," he says.

"We do a lot of work on the team shape and it's down to being organised and everyone knowing their role and doing their job."


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