Darren Randolph has no doubt that there would be a welcome on the mat in the Irish squad for Declan Rice should he choose to commit to the green shirt.
“If he comes back in, he’s back in,” said Ireland’s No 1. “Forget about it. Get back on the pitch and perform. If he
decides to come back and he’s playing well, I don’t think anyone will be worrying about it too much. They’ll say: ‘Thank God, he chose to play.’”
Randolph does admit, however, that he was taken aback at the player’s decision to take a step aside to ponder his international future.
“I was, given he played underage, all the way up as well,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised, yes, but it happens. I’ve seen it with players in the past. It happens when you’ve young talent. Everyone wants a piece.”
As someone who had dual eligibility himself, through his US-born father Ed, Randolph certainly wouldn’t be inclined to rush to judgement.
This was despite receiving an approach from the Americans back in the day. The Wicklow native says he couldn’t remember exactly when he was sounded out, but he was adamant it was an option he was never going to consider.
“No, I already had it in my head I wanted to play for Ireland,” he said, adding, with a laugh, that if he had defected, “I wouldn’t be let back into Bray”.
As for his former clubmate Rice, Randolph echoes Martin O’Neill’s suggestion that the player be afforded time and space to make up his mind.
Randolph presents a sunny-side-up demeanour in front of the media. Hernia surgery meant he wasn’t around for the row in the summer which has seen Harry Arter’s withdrawal hog the headlines this week, but, never the sort to turn a drama into a crisis, Randolph insists he can detect no trace of aftershocks in the camp, as the squad prepare for Nations League action against Wales in Cardiff tomorrow.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s business as usual,” he said. “Everyone is laughing and joking. I’ve not seen or sensed everything different. Whoever has their issues, it’s up to them to figure out.”
Between retirements, withdrawals, and injuries, there have been a lot of changes in the squad since their last competitive match 10 months ago, that grim 5-1 defeat to Denmark, which left Ireland on the outside looking in as the World Cup finals exceeded all expectations in Russia in the summer.
The reality now, he concedes, is that of an Irish squad in a period of transition.
“With the boys that have left, boys that have been around for years, it could be a bit of a rebuilding period,” he said. “Some of the boys coming in, it’s all new to them.”
Not to Randolph, though, who, somewhat to his own surprise, can now be ranked one of the senior figures. As such, he is always available to share the nuggets of wisdom he has accumulated over the course of 26 senior appearances.
“If anyone wants to talk or ask me a question, I’ve got no problem speaking to anybody,” he said. “Players in the past have done that with me. At the end of the day, you want everyone to be comfortable and to perform and to achieve the same thing.”