Darren Randolph is making no apologies for the Republic of Ireland being difficult to beat as they attempt to secure a trip to a third successive European Championships finals.
The 32-year-old Middlesbrough goalkeeper has conceded just two goals in his country’s five Group D matches to date with Denmark’s Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Switzerland skipper Fabian Schar the only men to find a way past him.
Ireland have taken 11 points from a possible 15 to lead the pack as the campaign reaches its business end, but Randolph knows that he and the men ahead of him may have to be even more resilient if they are to achieve their dreams with trips to Georgia and Switzerland to come next month ahead of the Danes’ visit to Dublin in November.
He said: “There are going to be times in every game when you’re going to need to defend and you’re going to have everybody behind the ball.
“You’ve seen with us in games in the past, we’ve defended for 10 minutes or whole parts of the game. It’s part of football.
“Obviously you don’t want to be camped on the edge of your box for the whole game and just inviting the pressure, but it’s needed at times and I think we’ve shown we’re more than capable of doing it when needed.
“But we’ve shown already we’re out to attack and cause problems when we can and take it to other teams.”
The Republic’s pugnacious approach to the game may have won them few fans – Swiss keeper Yann Sommer dismissed it as “very unpleasant” in the run-up to Thursday evening’s 1-1 draw at the Aviva Stadium.
And while their methods have proved hugely effective over the years, there is an acknowledgement within the camp that dogged defence alone is not enough despite manager Mick McCarthy’s insistence that he will accept winning “ugly” every time.
Ireland, who face Bulgaria in a friendly on Tuesday evening, have scored more than one goal in a game only once during the current campaign – Robbie Brady’s injury time strike secured a 2-0 win over Gibraltar in Dublin in June – and last achieved that feat in a competitive fixture on the road in Moldova almost three years ago.
It is a debate Randolph has experienced at club level too with current Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate attempting to take a more progressive approach than predecessor Tony Pulis, so far with mixed results.
Asked about the contrasting styles of the two coaches, the keeper said: “Under Tony, we were a lot more compact and defensive-minded, which enabled us to stay in games and probably nick some goals, whereas now we’re probably more expansive and open and attacking.
“We’ve been unlucky with a few of the results that we’ve had so far, but there are lots of positives to take from the games we’ve already played.
“We’re getting used to a new style of football that he wants us to play.”
Statistics do not tell the full story, but the transition remains a work in process.
When Randolph met up with his international team-mates in September last year, he did so having kept five clean sheets in the first six games of the Sky Bet Championship campaign as Boro collected 14 points; this time around, his return is just one shut-out and six points from the same number of outings.
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