Shay Given was my goalkeeping hero admits Darren Randolph
SHAY GIVEN recalled how Packie Bonner was his idol growing up when he took over the Republic of Ireland’s number one jersey.
Now, current first-choice Darren Randolph says he pretended he was Given during childhood jumpers-for-goalposts games when he dreamed of a career in football. Bray-born West Ham United goalkeeper Randolph will travel to the Euro 2016 finals next week alongside 40-year-old Given, who extended the span of his international career to an Irish record 20 years and 65 days when he started the friendly against Belarus on Tuesday night.
“You are running around the pitch with your mates when you are younger calling out names of different players from different World Cups and European Championships and it will be surreal to be there myself, involved in one,” said Randolph after the Republic of Ireland trained at Fota Island, Cork on Thursday.
“Shay is one of the names, yes. He was around then as well, so he would have been one of them, yes. Not only Irish goalkeepers, but most goalkeepers, he’s up there with the top ones.”
Given made his 134th appearance for the Republic in the 2-1 friendly defeat by Belarus at Turner’s Cross. The Lifford man was Martin O’Neill’s number one until he damaged a knee during the famous 1-0 qualifying victory over Germany in October last year and Randolph has done little wrong since taking over from him.
However, Keiren Westwood, the beneficiary of Given’s temporary retirement from international football after 2012, has been the only one of the three to have played regular first-team football at club level this season and he turned in a fine individual display in Sheffield Wednesday’s 1-0 Sky Bet Championship play-off defeat by Hull last Saturday.
O’Neill rarely gives anything away about his team selection, even to the players, and Randolph and his fellow goalkeepers have become used to that: “It’s how he works,” said Randolph.
“It has been that way since he first came into the job. You go out and train, train hard and we know he's not going to have the team until we get to the changing room. Everyone just prepares like you’re going to play if you get the nod - and if you don’t get the nod, be prepared to come on.”