‘A stupid challenge,’ claims Darren Randolph as luckless Alan Judge breaks arm
Ireland made a different kind of point in Denmark last night. A stalemate, true enough, but more redolent of a freshness of attitude rather than the grim impasses of more recent times.
And a different feeling for the now familiar Irish goal-scoring hero, too; Shane Duffy’s most recent goal against Denmark presaged the now infamous 5-1 Dublin drubbing and the slow death of the Martin O’Neill era.
His goal last night may just have demonstrated there is a sense of vivid life in the new one under Mick McCarthy.
“It’s a good start for us,” says the remarkably resourceful defensive pillar and penalty-box assassin.
“We came here to win the game and that was the aim. But a point out here is good, they don’t lose many games out here but it feels like a different draw.
“We didn’t hang in there for 90 minutes which was obviously the feeling we had the last couple of times we’ve played here. We went after them. Obviously they had a lot of chances but it feels like a different point.
“It was a bit better, obviously. They are still a good team and sometimes you have to give them that little bit of respect and keep your shape and that.
“But I thought we went after them a lot more. There is still a lot of improvement needed but we tried to play that little bit more and we tried to press them.
“But they were good. They had the four midfield players sort of in a little box in between the lines and it was quite difficult to get around at times. But we didn’t give up and it’s a good point in the end.”
Alan Judge’s arrival initiated the arrival; the free-kick he won delivered the required salvation.
“That’s the ball, that’s the perfect ball. I was delighted. I was a bit disappointed that I missed the chance in the first half, so I kept saying to myself, ‘If I get one more, hopefully I can put it away’.
“It was the perfect ball, sweet spot.”
Such is his confidence at the top end of the field, he berates himself for his missed opportunity in the first half.
“I don’t know, maybe I got a little pull or something, but I sort of actually missed it, then I tried to swing at it and I missed it again. I made a shambles of it really.”
Judge’s fortunes have rarely lasted of late; cruelly, a late tackle from Kasper Dolberg – “a stupid challenge” Darren Randolph curses – resulted in him breaking his wrist as the final whistle sounded.
“I’m gutted for Alan Judge because I feel like he changed the game when he came on,” adds Duffy.
“He’s got good quality and that was a great delivery for me. It’s disappointing and hopefully it’s not as long as we think.”
“I don’t know many people with worse luck,” says Randolph of a gifted play-maker who has endured lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury.
“He’s put in a great ball and then with the last kick he gets a challenge, which was a stupid challenge really.
“It was definitely a bitter-sweet night for him but we’ll rally around and hopefully he’s back very quickly.”
If Duffy’s goals are a trademark, so are Randolph’s saves, a reflection that Ireland remain a limited force for all their brave intent.
“It’s always pleasing when you make saves and you get the result,” he says.
“I’m just happy and grateful to help the team.”
Conor Hourihane eventually had to add caution to his game in the opening half but revealed that at half-time, Mick McCarthy encouraged his team to be bold.
“He just said that he wanted a bit more quality on the ball. It felt at times as though we gave it away a little too easily. But we felt we were doing OK at nil-nil and there were some positive words at half-time.
“We had a couple of chances in the second half and it kicked us into gear a little bit.
“Then, when we had to throw caution to the wind, the big man came up with the goal.
“They were probably waiting to break us down and score one and when they did that their mentality might have been, ‘right, we can’t concede now’.
“So they sat back and let us play a little bit more but that suited us in the end.”