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Thursday 22 June 2017

Irish Hammer is not stressed over threat from Bale

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph

A cool customer who has been in the game a long time, it takes a lot to get Darren Randolph stressed or upset.

And even though he is the last man between the danger posed by Gareth Bale and the Irish goal, the West Ham keeper is not having sleepless nights about what's to come.

Let's not forget that when he made his competitive international debut against Germany - and some will find it shocking to recall that was just 18 months ago - Randolph was facing up to the likes of Kroos, Ozil, Gotze and Muller as Germany came to Dublin expecting a comfy win and were shocked to go home with a 1-0 loss.

Bale is the talisman for Wales tonight, his dead balls having put more than one team to the sword, but West Ham keeper Randolph is not too stressed.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's exciting for me at the same time," he says, adding that any homework done on studying Bale's free kicks could be a waste of time as the Real Madrid man is a one-off.

"There's nothing you can really study," says Randolph.

"The way he hits the ball, the movement he gets on the ball, you can't study that. You can go out in the training pitch and hit 20 free kicks, they might hit 20 into the wall, they might hit 20 on target, but the way he strikes the ball, he doesn't bend it over the wall and you know which way he likes to go, he hits the ball with his laces and gets movement side to side on the ball, you can't replicate it.

"I could get Robbie Brady to hit 20 free kicks, I could get James McClean to hit as many as he wants, but they are not going to be the same as I get in the game. They are all different. You can't prepare.

Target

"He (Bale) probably visualises in his head where he wants them to go, which side of the goal, to get it up and over the wall, or he just thinks I want to get it on target. If the ball moves, it goes where it goes."

While some players come away from their clubs with moans ringing in their ears from club managers who don't care about international football, it's different at West Ham under Slaven Bilic, who of course managed Croatia in the past, Randolph admitting that Ireland taking points off Serbia in Belgrade gave Bilic cause to smile.

"He did say that was a good result," says Randolph.

"I can see the excitement in his face when he spoke to James (Collins) and myself before we came away, he was like ahhhh, Ireland vs Wales.

"He keeps an eye on all the players who are away internationally.

"He was in contact with me during the Euros, he was in contact with all the boys who were at the Euros, James Collins with Wales. I think he likes the fact we are playing for little underdog countries."

Ireland may be an underdog but it's a team in a good place, Randolph believes. "The good thing is we have had a good start but there are still a lot of matches to go," says the Wicklow native.

"We'd like to put them seven points off the top, to make it harder for them than it is for us. We have played everybody away, we've still got to play Wales away and have to go to Georgia, but the rest of the games are at home. It has set us up nicely, we have already being to Austria and Serbia which are two tough places to go."

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