By Isaac Moore
West Ham goalkeeper, Darren Randolph, is hoping an extended FA Cup run can help cement his place in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad.
After replacing Shay Given for Ireland’s final two qualifiers, Randolph retained a starting berth to help Martin O'Neill's side advance to their first major tournament since 2002 by beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-offs.
Since that triumph, however, Randolph has been restricted to just three FA Cup appearances for his club, but is set to be restored to the starting line-up for their Fifth Round tie with Blackburn today.
And the Bray-born keeper, 28, is determined to help the club win silverware in their final season at Upton Park.
“To play at Wembley is one of a few of my dreams, especially in the FA Cup,” he said.
“I was there with the Irish team when we played England, but I didn’t play.
“A Cup run would be good for me leading up to the summer. Hopefully I can go to the Euros and play, that will be a dream. It will be competitive for all of us [goalkeepers] so the more high-profile games I get to play hopefully the performances will speak for themselves.
“It will be a great way to leave the Boleyn Ground with some silverware. We’ve got a great chance, we’ve put out a strong team in every round because we’ve got a strong squad. Hopefully we can get to the next round.
“It’s going to be another tough match, we’re going away from home again and Blackburn will want an upset.
“We’re going to have to expect a tougher game than the Liverpool one because they’re going to raise their game.
“We’ve been to some tough places but we have the faith, belief, team spirit and togetherness to put up a solid away performance. Everyone’s been on top of their game at the moment.”
Randolph joined West Ham after leaving Birmingham last summer. Having started his youth career with Ardmore Rovers, he moved to England with Charlton in 2003. After a series of loan moves and a successful spell in Scotland with Motherwell, he is now impressing his current team-mates.
And West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has confirmed that Randolph will continue to feature in the FA Cup even if they make it all the way to the Final and insists the Irishman fully merits his chance.
“Adrian is our first-choice ‘keeper, that’s true,” said Bilic.
“But Randolph deserves his chance, not only because it’s the FA Cup but every time we put him in goal it's because he’s done brilliantly for us. He’s doing the same thing when he’s playing for Ireland. It’s a big privilege for me and for us to have two such great goalkeepers.
“I decided before the Wolves game that Randolph was going to be in goal. He was very good at Anfield in the first game and then at home in the replay as well. He deserves to be in goal.”