FA Cup is full of joy for Darren
Hammers boss Bilic hails Irish keeper after Anfield draw
Ireland keeper Darren Randolph is one man who is very happy with his weekend's work after he emerged from the shadows to use the FA Cup as a stage for his talents and make a very potent point to national team boss Martin O'Neill, having already won the praise of his club boss Slaven Bilic.
Second-choice keeper for West Ham, Randolph was given a rare run-out by Hammers manager Bilic in Saturday's FA Cup game away to Liverpool, and the Bray native had a big say in the outcome of the tie, pulling off a series of saves to keep a clean sheet - his second in two FA Cup games this season and his third successive clean sheet, including the international win over Bosnia - and earn the Hammers a replay.
No. 1 keeper Adrian was given the weekend off to travel home to Spain to attend the birth of his new baby but United boss Bilic explained that Randolph would have played even if Adrian had been available, Randolph now, it seems, guaranteed to get games in the FA Cup as long as the club remain in the competition.
That can only be good news for O'Neill: with rival keepers Shay Given and David Forde out of action at the moment, the Irish boss can only be enthused to see Randolph get game time, albeit 'only' in the FA Cup to at least turn O'Neill's choice of keeper for Euro 2016 into an interesting debate, with Rob Elliot and Keiren Westwood also in the frame.
"He is the Republic of Ireland number one and because of him Ireland are in the European Championships so we have a great goalkeeper," manager Bilic said after the game.
"He was supposed to start anyway, it was not because Adrian went (away for family reasons), Randy would have be in goal anyway, remember he was in goal against Wolves (in the last round).
"He is going to play in the Cup as he is a great goalkeeper, he deserves to have these games, he never lets us down and I knew it, day in and day out he shows that in training, it was a great double save. Every time he shows he is top class."
Anfield is a good venue for Randolph, who played in a 3-0 win away to the Reds early in the season and the 28-year-old was delighted with his weekend's work and that trip to Merseyside.
"We have had two decent results this season at Anfield. We have had two good performances from the team and I like coming here," Randolph said. "I am happy to play whenever I can. The manager told me at the start of the week that I was going to start as it was the FA Cup. I am just happy to play.
"Every game is an opportunity for me. When I get the chance I need to show the manager what I can do. It would be nice to have a good cup run," added Randolph, who frustrated Jurgen Klopp's side time and again.
"We are full of confidence going into the replay. We are in good form and want to keep winning. It builds confidence. We have already had two victories against Liverpool this season and we came here thinking we could get a result," added Randolph.
"It is never easy playing at Anfield and they have a good squad. It was always going to be tough regardless of who was playing and they have a point to prove if they are not getting much game time."
It was also a good weekend for Randolph's compatriot Joey O'Brien, who came on as a first-half sub for the Hammers, his first appearance since July.