Darren Randolph: We showed our resilience once again when it was needed most
Wes Hoolahan delighted to be back involved as Ireland secure their second group victory
Ireland’s goalkeeper Darren Randolph after the victory in Moldova. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Republic of Ireland keeper Darren Randolph is making no apologies for being greedy as he targets World Cup qualification.
When the 29-year-old was asked if he would have settled for seven points from a possible nine after trips to Serbia and Moldova either side of a home clash with Georgia, who held Wales to a draw in Cardiff, he was frank.
Randolph said: “No, I’d have settled for nine out of nine, but I’ll take seven. Undefeated, two wins and a draw, sitting joint-top — you can’t ask for much more, really.
“Yes, we have still got other teams to play, other places to travel to, but it gives us something to build on.”
Manager Martin O’Neill had spent the days leading up to the double-header against the Georgians and the Moldovans insisting the two sides likely to finish in the final two places in the group were no mugs.
Ireland were fortunate to beat Georgia 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium last Thursday evening, but looked to be cruising in Moldova when they took a second-minute lead at the Stadionul Zimbru courtesy of Shane Long’s first strike for club or country in 19 games.
However, they failed to build upon their lead and were felled by a sucker punch in first-half stoppage time when striker Igor Bugaev gave the Irish defence the slip and ran from halfway to level.
When it was suggested to Randolph that he had looked angry as he sought explanation from the men in front of him in the aftermath of the goal, he paused and smiled before saying: “I’m just angry in general, I suppose.
“It was a bad time to concede, and I suppose how it was conceded. We just said to each other it wasn’t good enough. We’re a lot better than that. But we had 45 minutes to go and sort it out, which we did.”
It was winger James McClean who rode to Ireland’s rescue, slotting into the bottom corner from close range with 69 minutes gone and then volleying home skipper Seamus Coleman’s cross seven minutes later to cement the win.
Randolph said: “Every team has one or two sticky moments in every game. I’d love to come into a game like this and know we are going to win 6-0 or 7-0, but it’s not always the case.
“We need to be at it in every game. It was going to be a tough place to come. We had a brilliant start and you have to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes and keep pressing on and try to get that second goal.”
Randolph and his team-mates jetted out of Chisinau knowing the stakes will be raised significantly next month when they head for Austria, who emerged from their clash with the Serbs in Belgrade on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline.
However, they did so having once again summoned up estimable powers of resilience once again just when they needed them most.
The West Ham keeper said: “At half-time against Georgia and at half-time again today, we knew we had to go out and put in a better display than we did in the first half and do what we needed to do to get the win, which we were able to do.”
Playmaker Wes Hoolahan meanwhile is delighted with the team’s start to the group.
The 34-year-old said: “It’s a great start. There are going to be disappointments in the group at some stage — you see Wales drawing with Georgia tonight. It’s going to be a difficult group, but at the moment it’s good.
“The experience we had in France and getting out of the group stage and doing so well, we are looking forward to hopefully getting out of this group, which is a tough group, and qualifying for the World Cup.”
Hoolahan played a key role in setting the ball rolling for the Republic when, with just 116 seconds on the clock, he slid a perfectly-weighted pass into Long’s run.
Norwich midfielder Hoolahan, who was a frustrated spectator against Georgia, much to the disgust of O’Neill’s most vociferous critics, said: “It’s nice to play for your country, it’s always an honour.
“To run out there in the green is brilliant and to get involved in the first goal. But the most important thing is the three points. The last two games, six points is a good tally.”
Victory was achieved without key players Jeff Hendrick, who was suspended, and Robbie Brady, ruled out after suffering concussion three days earlier, and both will hope to return when the focus switches to Vienna.
Hoolahan said: “We have got a big squad of players, all very talented. Robbie and Jeff are young boys who have got a lot of talent, but we did well tonight and hopefully we will continue that.
“It [Moldova] is a difficult place to come, but we managed to get the three points, which is the most important thing.
“We started the game really well and could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up before they got the goal before half-time. We had a few words at half-time saying we needed to be better and in the second half, and we came out and got the two goals.”