Darren Randolph struggles to make sense of a dark night
‘We needed to try and get back into the game so you’re going to leave yourself open’
Republic of Ireland’s Darren Randolph stands under the scoreboard which shows the final score in their World Cup qualifying playoff. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Slim pickings in the mixed zone, predictably enough. The Irish players file through with their heads down, glancing up only to pick their way to the exit. Ciaran Clark mumbles an apology for not stopping – mostly though, their minds are on a quick getaway. It’s hard to blame any of them. What is there to say after that?
Darren Randolph pauses a while and takes a few hesitant, what-do-you-make-of-it-all enquiries. His voice is barely above a mumble, shell-shocked as he is. There’ll be plenty of nights in his career where he’ll personally play worse than this and not concede half the goals he did here. He struggles to make sense of it.
“It’s extremely disappointing, obviously,” he says. “We didn’t see that coming.”
How could they? Especially after Shane Duffy scored the early goal, the last thing on anyone’s mind was a 5-1 tonking.
“Whenever,” Randolph replies. “Before the game, after [Duffy’s goal] went in. But it’s done now.”
Sheer politeness is all that’s keeping the Ireland goalkeeper standing in front of us at this point. It’s obvious to everyone that the night got ugly quick so getting him to try and wrap words around it feels cruel indeed. No choice but to persevere though. How did it all go so wrong, Darren?
“We needed to try and get back into the game so you’re going to leave yourself open. We got punished.”
Bad and all as it was to have conceded twice in the opening period, they felt in the Ireland dressingroom that the game wasn’t gone at half-time. An early equaliser would have set Martin O’Neill’s side up for a thunderous closing period. In Randolph’s eyes, they came out for the second half still with every chance to save the campaign.
“Of course,” he says. “It was only 2-1.They got two goals in quick succession. We had to go and do the same as that but it obviously didn’t pan out that way. And then what happened, happened.”
By the end, with the clock ticking past 11, Randolph was still the only Ireland player who shared his thoughts. He talked to the written press and stopped for radio too. His voice was catching at times but he did it anyway. “I just think tonight, chasing the game, it’s always going to be hard,” he said.
Someone puts it to him that the campaign has had its moments. Some new blood, some high points, some fine away displays and a campaign that ended only in the second leg of a playoff. Randolph shrugs like he appreciates the sentiment but here and now, it clearly feels hollow.
“Yeah, look we got some good results and performances. I’m sure when we take a little bit of time we’ll be able to look back and take some positives from it. But…”
And he trails off, turning for the team bus, unable to say any more.