herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Irish Goalkeeper 'Dazza' chose soccer over basketball and Gaelic

Darren Randolph
Darren Randolph

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph has already represented his country at a European tournament, albeit in another code - basketball.

Some of the 28-year-old's last playing days in that sport were the European Championships at underage level, before Charlton FC came knocking on his door - eventually leading to his current post at West Ham.

The Wicklow man's time on the court were due, in no small part, to the influence of his father, Ed - who himself was among a wave of Americans who came over to Ireland, joining the Super League in the 80s.

He played for UCD Marian and Killester as well as coached many schools around Dublin, and encouraged his son's start in basketball from an early age.

"He used to go with me when I'd be coaching. If I brought Darren out to the different schools, it could give my wife, Anne a break," Ed says.

"And he'd be there every Saturday, he'd pick up a ball and join in.

"He eventually developed in the game. He started to play for UCD Marian, at a time when they didn't have a boys team.

All-ireland

"He also played for his school, Pres Bray, and was part of the first Pres team that played in an All-Ireland 'C' final."

When Darren got his start at Charlton, he turned down the interest of Roma St Vincent's for the much more lucrative option in English soccer.

His ability to leap, which his father accredits to his basketball days, helped him progress not only as a goalkeeper but in another sport, Gaelic football.

As a full-back he was part of a Bray Emmets side that won an under 15 Wicklow final in Aughrim.

"With his jumping ability there was nearly no need for a goalkeeper. He could reach everything," Ed says.

While Darren has swapped codes with relative ease, swapping countries has proved more difficult.

It has been speculated whether Randolph would ever declare for the USA - as he holds a US passport on a account of his father's US citizenship.

With little interest from the USA manger Jurgen Klinsmann, and legendary 'keeper Shay Given out, there's more opportunity for Randolph's in a green shirt.

One which he took with both hands, with an all-important assist in Shane Long's goal last week. However, the appearance alone was as much a surprise for his parents.

"Given went off injured. I turned to my friend and then looked back at the pitch and there was Darren was on the sideline, about to come on." says Ed. "I thought, uh oh. Then I thought, I have to tell my wife.

"We had booked a mid-week break with her sister, forgetting about the match.

"She decided to not go along, saying he probably won't make it on against Germany, wished him luck beforehand and said I'd be there cheering him on.

"But my younger son, Neil, called it. He said beforehand, 'Dazza, if it's ever going to happen, it's going to happen tonight against Germany'."

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