REP­U­TA­TION EN­HANCED!

Ran­dolph’s stock on the rise

Bray People - - SPORT - DAVE DEV­EREUX Sports Re­porter

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.

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