Saturday 16 December 2017

Randolph tasked with dousing fire of Welsh Dragon

Republic of Ireland's Darren Randolph. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Darren Randolph. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Darren Randolph loves his role as Ireland's first-choice goalkeeper but accepts that the jersey is only on loan.

If he allows himself to think anything else, the Bray-born keeper is on a hiding to nothing.

Statistically, all is going well. Randolph has amassed a total of 18 caps, four of them in our World Cup Group D qualifying series. Two clean sheets, just three goals conceded and the team on top of the table makes for a happy Irish squad and management team.

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has also entrusted Randolph with the first-choice spot after he lost faith in Spanish netminder Adrian last November.

"Luvly, jubbly" as Del Boy would say in the everlasting 'Only Fools and Horses' TV series.

If he were inclined to complacency, Del Boy's quaint turn of a Cockney phrase might apply to Randolph.

However, that is not going to happen. Randolph (pictured) has been in the pro game since 2005 when he signed as a trainee for Charlton.

He has worked hard to attain his present status and is only too aware of how quickly fate can turn against a footballer, particularly a goalkeeper.

He doesn't have to look too far for evidence. Take the case of David Forde. One minute he's the Irish 'keeper who has never let down the team. The next, he finds Shay Given has come out of retirement and he's sitting on the bench.

That's the ebb and flow of a sportsman's career, hence the careful focus of Randolph on maintaining his standards.

"You can always be replaced. There's always someone, whether it's club or country. Every player wants to play and there's always pressure.

"You have one goal and you get to that goal. Then you set another goal and you have to work towards that goal. And if you get that goal, there's more pressure on you to set another one. It's constant.

"I suppose once you feel you've reached all your goals then maybe you'd think, 'That's my time'. But I've got a few years before that happens," he said.

Indeed he does, and in relation to time, nothing matters more than the 90 minutes against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

Both sides revelled in the European Championship fervour in France last summer.

Randolph admits to a pang of jealousy at his club team-mate James Collins being part of the Welsh squad on that went all the way to the semi-finals, but he won't be buying the DVD charting the epic journey of Chris Coleman's men.

The players were lauded at a good old-fashioned premiere to launch 'Don't Take Me Home'.

"I saw a picture of them on Instagram all suited and booted going to the thing.

"He (Collins) said how good it was. I was kind of jealous they got to the semis. It's a massive thing for any country," said Randolph.

Equally massive, and perhaps more so, would be a place in the World Cup finals in Russia, so no love will be lost if between the Hammers clubmates when Collins arrives in the Irish penalty area for Welsh set-pieces.

Randolph appreciates the physicality of the visitors in those situations, and also has to keep on his toes for Gareth Bale taking dead aim on the Irish goal from free-kicks.

"The way he hits the ball, the movement he gets on the ball, you can't study that.

"I wouldn't say it was a nightmare, but it's not as easy as someone hitting the ball straight at you. We don't want to give away stupid free-kicks in dangerous areas, that's for sure," he said.

Irish Independent

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