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Randolph's return to bench role a concern for McCarthy

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Darren Randolph. Photo: Getty Images

Darren Randolph. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Darren Randolph. Photo: Getty Images

Mick McCarthy took a wrong turn when he tried to enter Lansdowne Road on Saturday to watch the opening game of the Six Nations tournament for the Irish rugby team, and had to be directed by a steward to the correct entrance.

If that was the worst miss-step for a member of the Republic's set-up to take between now and the Euro 2020 play-off with Slovakia in March it would be a relief but just as McCarthy went the wrong way on Saturday, it looks like the career of Darren Randolph has also taken a wrong turn.

"It's a good move for Darren and that makes it a good move for Ireland ahead of the game against Slovakia in March," McCarthy told the FAI website earlier this month, bizarrely, before the move had gone through.

Him welcoming a deal which was still in the process of completion was, like his optimism, premature.

Last Saturday, for the second time in a week, West Ham United played with Randolph a frustrated spectator, Ireland's No 1 reduced to the role of back-up to Lukasz Fabianski for the 3-3 draw with Brighton.

Drop

Youngsters like Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool) and Mark Travers (Bournemouth) have been unable to get much game time, Keiren Westwood (35) hasn't played in two months, Rob Elliot hasn't kicked a ball in over two years. Hopefuls such as Kieran O'Hara and Max O'Leary have had to drop into England's third tier to get first-team experience.

That all combines to make the goalkeeping position a concern. Due to injury, Randolph has played just four games in the 11 weeks since the group stage of the Euro 2020 qualifiers ended. The Slovakia game is only eight weeks away and only David Moyes can decide if Randolph gets any game in that period.

The Hammers don't even have the luxury of an FA Cup run to leave out Fabianski and give Randolph a run, as their presence in the Cup ended on the same day as Randolph's run in the team, with a dismal 1-0 loss at home to West Brom. Since then, Fabianski has returned from injury and Randolph was dropped.

Even if he is unused at club level between now and the game in Bratislava, Randolph (if fit) will be in goal for Ireland. Months of inactivity would not convince McCarthy to change things in goal.

October 2015 was the last time anyone other than Randolph played in goal for Ireland in a competitive game. McCarthy has used Travers and O'Hara for senior games, but only in friendlies.

Travers (20) had a positive start to 2020, appearing in a 4-0 FA Cup win for Bournemouth, but follow-up games against Watford (0-3) and Arsenal (1-2) did not go as well.

Kelleher (21) has also learned how tough it can be when trying to climb the ladder at Liverpool, conceding 10 goals in two League Cup ties.

Irish Independent