Randolph’s stock on the rise
THE Republic of Ireland bowed out of the European Championships on Sunday with their heads held high, and one player that certainly enhanced his reputation during the tournament was Wicklow’s own Darren Randolph.
The Bray native, whose Florida-born father Ed was a professional basketball player, was magnificent against France, but despite his heroics an Antoine Griezmann double helped the hosts to a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
The West Ham United clubman was certainly kept busy during the 90 minutes, but was assured in dealing with efforts from Pogba, Payet and Gignac and superbly denied Griezmann a hat-trick late on.
Randolph performed admirably throughout the tournament, although he did have a quieter than expected evening during Ireland’s memorable win over Italy in their final group game.
However, the goalkeeper made sure he wasn’t kept entirely out of the spotlight on that famous night, as he showed some nifty footwork to outfox the inrushing Simone Zaza with a turn the late, great Johan Cruyff would have been proud of.
The former Ardmore Rovers player had an altogether busier night in the 3-0 defeat to Belgium, although the Irish netminder could not be faulted for any of the goals.
The goalkeeper also did all that could be asked of him during the draw with Sweden, proving to be a commanding presence behind the back four and pulling off a topclass save when the ball deflected off Ciaran Clark’s shin.
It had been a long and winding road for Randolph before he secured the number one jersey for his country, with the former Charlton Athletic trainee spending years sitting on the bench as back-up, before going to Hereford on loan.
He then joined Motherwell, where he set a clean sheets record, and Birmingham City, before earning a move to Premier League side West Ham United.
It was a similar story for Randolph with Ireland, as he also had to play the waiting game for his chance between the sticks, but that opportunity came in unlikely circumstances against world champions Germany in the middle of a vital Euro 2016 qualifier last October.
When Shay Given injured his knee just before half-time it was expected than manager Martin O’Neill would opt for David Forde as a replacement but he plumped for Randolph instead and he certainly grabbed his chance with both hands.
The Bray man made a number of fine saves on that wonderful night in the Aviva Stadium and provided the assist for Shane Long as the Tipperary man ran on to his long punt forward and swept the ball past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Randolph was one of Ireland’s stand-out players during Euro 2016, alongside the likes of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, and he has surely cemented his place as first choice goalkeeper for the World Cup qualifying campaign, although he may have to consider moving away from West Ham to guarantee first team football as continuing to play second fiddle to Adrian with the Londoners could damage his prospects of copper-fastening his place in the Irish team.
After his impressive performances for Ireland in France over the past few weeks, there should be no shortage of clubs willing to sign the big Bray man.
Wicklow’s Darren Dandolph salutes the Irish fans after the 2-1 defeat to the French.
Darren saves superbly from a French freekick during the first half on Sunday afternoon.
Darren Randolph steps off the plane on Monday in Dublin.