Darren Randoph will miss Ireland's opening games of the World Cup campaign through injury leaving manager Stephen Kenny to hope Caoimhín Kelleher makes a full recovery from the stomach muscle injury that has sidelined him in recent weeks.
Randolph, who has played in every competitive senior international game over the past three years, has been injured since January and when he was recalled to the West Ham team recently, for the Premier League fixture against Manchester City, he was clearly struggling as the game went on.
“He started the game really well but the defenders had to take the kick-outs in the second half and that’s very unfortunate,” Kenny told an online gathering of Ireland supporters on Thursday evening. “He’s had a kicking issue on and off for a while now. Initially it was a thigh problem and then a hip injury. It has caused him a lot of anguish. I’ve been speaking to Darren over the last few days and West Ham have shut him down at the moment. Darren won’t be fit to be selected for the camp.”
On the most recent occasions that Randolph did not start for Ireland, in the friendlies against Bulgaria and New Zealand towards the end of 2019, Mark Travers and Kieran O'Hara both featured, with each getting a start and one replacing the other on each occasion.
Since then, however, Kelleher, has turned in a number of impressive first- team displays for Liverpool and Kenny has made it fairly clear that he regards the 22-year-old as Randoph’s main rival at this stage. As things stand, though, he is currently a doubt for the games against Serbia and Luxembourg too.
“He’s due back training at the weekend,” said Kenny. “Fingers crossed he comes through okay because he’s played five games for Liverpool and he’s been first-class in those games.”
The Ireland manager went on to speak about his other options in positive terms with Gavin Bazunu, currently on loan from Manchester City to Rochdale, and Oldham's Ian Lawlor getting mentions. But there is no question that the loss of Randolph would be another serious blow to a manager who has not had much luck with player availability since he took charge of the team for the first time last September.
Kelleher being available would significantly soften the blow but that is far for a certainty at this stage.
Over the course of the meeting, which included a talk by Kenny on what he is attempting to achieve tactically with the team, the manager confirmed that Coventry City midfielder Callum O’Hare does not qualify to play for the Republic of Ireland with his family connection going back one generation too far.
Rory Delap's son Liam, he said, is currently involved in the England set-up "and we have to respect that", while the FAI is still awaiting word from John Joe Finn, the Madrid-born teenage midfielder at Getafe, as to who he will declare for.
Aaron McEneff and Graham Burke are currently in his provisional squad for the games with Josh Cullen's form making him "a good option" said Kenny.