Thursday 18 July 2019

Relaxed Randolph set for another crack at play-off pressure test

Darren Randolph: no fears Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Darren Randolph: no fears Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Darren Randolph has a reputation for being quite a laid-back guy.

In the past, Martin O'Neill has joked about that fact - wondering if he was almost too chilled out - but maybe it's a quality that makes Randolph suited to the pressure of play-off week.

The Middlesbrough netminder doesn't carry himself like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. In Cardiff last month, the Bray lad was calm as Ireland secured the victory to bring them into this week's two-legged tie with Denmark.

And he's one from one in play-offs with a positive experience in Bosnia two years ago in the memory bank.

He was asked yesterday about Damien Duff's recent observation that he'd never felt as alive as he did in a play-off game. The netminder didn't exactly offer a ringing endorsement of that view.

Instead, there was a slight shrug of the shoulders. "I can see why because it's a play-off game, two games," he said. "But I won't be thinking too much about that."

It's safe to say there is no danger of the 30-year-old worrying himself into a panic over these games.

However, he is confident enough to repeat his gut reaction view that the draw was kind to Ireland.

"I think it was probably the one everyone wanted when you look at the teams that were in the draw," says Randolph, who had the Sky Sports cameras at his club's training ground seeking an immediate reaction.

"I don't know what it was like for them - maybe they were the same, maybe they wanted us instead of anyone else. I think it's the best draw we could have hoped for."

His specific recollections of the away leg in Bosnia are hazy but that's only because of the view, the thick fog in Zenica that made for a strange affair.

"I could only see up to the halfway line," he says, laughing. "There is a picture of me and Seamus Coleman and there is only the two of us in it because you can't see beyond the halfway line.

"So whenever the ball did break free and they were attacking I was just seeing players coming through the fog.

"By that stage the ball would already be over the halfway line. Even with the replays of the (Robbie Brady) goal, with the camera angle you still couldn't see it properly.

"I'd never experienced it before so you just had to deal with it and thankfully there was no ball over the top that someone had to chase and I had to get to. I had enough time to see everything as it was happening."

Copenhagen on Saturday should provide a different backdrop. Ireland's players are aware of Denmark's threat, although Randolph says the intensity of the homework will step up across the week.

He knows he has played against Christian Eriksen before, but doesn't have any particular memories that stick out in his head. Goalkeepers face a different type of stopping job.

If the Danish tie does go all the way - two legs and 30 minutes of extra-time - then Randolph's prep work will suddenly become very important. Penalties could make him the main man.

He confessed there might be some research undertaken in that regard.

"Normally you have a look at the penalty-takers, go back and see if they have a pattern or favourite side," he says. "Then it's down to you to decide on the day whether you go that side and how you feel that day."

"But I won't think about that until it gets to stage," he insists, with a half grin. "Maybe come 88 minutes on Tuesday I'll start to think about that. Maybe even later than that."

It's not difficult to believe him.

Irish Independent

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