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keeper concern Blow for Ireland as Darren Randolph ruled out of opening World Cup qualifiers

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Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph is set to miss the opening World Cup qualifiers. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph is set to miss the opening World Cup qualifiers. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph is set to miss the opening World Cup qualifiers. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Stephen Kenny has been dealt a major blow ahead of Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Serbia after first-choice goalkeeper Darren Randolph was ruled out of the March window through injury.

And the news has been compounded by uncertainty around the fitness of preferred replacement Caoimhin Kelleher, who is not due to return to full training at Liverpool until next week and has to prove he is recovered before he can travel.

The Corkman would be making his debut for Ireland if selected in Belgrade.

Randolph has been troubled by niggling issues in recent months and did make a comeback for West Ham in their defeat to Manchester City on February 27.

But he was barely able to kick the ball in the second half and he is on the sidelines again with the Hammers urging him to rest.

Kenny held a question and answer session with Ireland supporters on Thursday evening and delivered the worrying update.

"We have some injury problems in goal," said Kenny.

"I've been speaking to Darren over the last few days and West Ham have shut him down at the moment.

"He played recently and started the game really well but the defenders had to take the kickouts in the second half and that's very unfortunate. He's had a kicking issue for a while. Initially a thigh injury and then a hip injury. It's caused him a lot of anguish. Darren won't be fit to be selected for the camp.”

Kelleher has been unable to feature for Liverpool in recent weeks due to a stomach issue that prevented him from deputising for Alisson in the game with Sheffield United on February 28.

He is pencilled in for a return to training either at the weekend or next week.

“Caoimhin is injured at the moment as well," said Kenny.

"He has a slight abdominal tear. We’ll see how he goes and fingers crossed he is okay because he has great potential. He played five games for Liverpool and has been first class in all of them."

Kenny mentioned Mark Travers and Gavin Bazunu as alternatives. He said Travers was frustrated to be recalled to Bournemouth from a loan spell at Swindon where he was getting regular games.

Highly-rated Man City prospect Bazunu is on loan in League One with Rochdale and the 19-year-old is very well thought of.

"He is very young but he's having a really good season," said Kenny, who referenced that Kieran O'Hara had lost his place at Burton.

Kelleher was putting pressure on Randolph after showing his quality at Champions League level for Liverpool but the feeling was that Kenny would lean towards the experienced head in the away game on March 24.

Ireland host Luxembourg on March 27 before playing Qatar in Hungary and those games were viewed as more likely as the chance for Kelleher to gain senior recognition - especially if Randolph was struggling.

But now he's out of the equation completely, Kenny is sweating on the wellbeing of the rookie.

Meanwhile, the Ireland manager confirmed that speculation David McGoldrick might come out of international retirement was misplaced.

The appearance of an Ireland jersey on his Instagram profile caused a stir and Kenny contacted the Sheffield United forward and found out that the hacking of his account had reset his settings back six months.

"He just wasn't in a position to commit to coming back to playing for Ireland, (because of) the toll that football takes on his body and private family reasons. That's where he is.

"He had already made that decision to retire at the end of the Euros campaign a good while ago. David is a tremendous individual and I've great respect for him," said Kenny, who explained he recently spoke with the forward at a Premier League game where the subs were located close to the directors box.

In the course of a lengthy session, Kenny reserved special praise for Josh Cullen, who has excelled at Anderlecht and will be definitely be in the squad that is named next Thursday.

"I watched a good bit of him with Charlton and really feel he's taken his game up a level," said Kenny. "He's more progressive in his passing looking forward. He's shown great dynamism. The games are very open, it's a very athletic league, they're not tactical cagey affairs.

"What I like about it is that he's really embraced the opportunity to go there and shown a determination to do well."

Alan Browne was also hailed for his recent displays at Preston, while chief scout Ruaidhri Higgins will watch the in-form Sunderland attacker Aiden McGeady in Sunday's Football League Trophy final against Tranmere.

Aiden O'Brien and Lee O'Connor will also feature in that game and Kenny did not give the impression that a recall for the Glaswegian was imminent, noting the difference in levels between the Championship and League One.

Kenny also detailed how Higgins' friendship with Chelsea coach Anthony Barry, dating back to their youth at Coventry and a subsequent meeting on a Pro Licence course, helped pave the way for his move into the Ireland set-up to replace Damien Duff.

He also stressed that contrary to reports, current Coventry star Callum O'Hare is not eligible for Ireland. The FAI have signalled their interest in Manchester City's Liam Delap, the son of ex-Ireland international Rory, but he's currently within the English underage set-up.

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