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'It'll definitely be a night for cool heads. Play the game, not the occasion'

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph says composure will be key in tonight’s massive World Cup qualifier.

Darren Randolph Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph at yesterday's pre-match press conference at Cardiff City Stadium. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

– Paul Dollery reports from Cardiff

THERE’S SET TO be a red-hot atmosphere at Cardiff City Stadium tonight but Ireland will need to keep their composure if they’re to succeed.

That’s the message from Darren Randolph, who’ll win his 25th senior cap when he starts in goal for Martin O’Neill’s side as they conclude their Group D campaign with a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Wales (7.45pm).

A win for either side is likely to send them through to a play-off in their bid to reach next summer’s tournament in Russia, although automatic qualification is still a possibility if Serbia manage to slip up at home to Georgia.

Wales, bidding to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958, will be backed by 30,000 fans at the home of Cardiff City Football Club. Ireland received a ticket allocation of 3,500 for tonight’s decisive fixture.

“We’ll definitely need cool heads. Everybody knows what’s at stake,” said Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph at yesterday’s pre-match press conference at the Cardiff City Stadium.

“Obviously you want to stay in the game for as long as possible. As the manager has said, you don’t want to try and go out and win the game in the first 10 minutes.

“The longer we stay in the game, the better. It’ll definitely be a night for cool heads. Play the game, not the occasion.”

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Republic of Ireland v Moldova - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Aviva Stadium The Ireland team pictured before Friday's win against Moldova. Source: Niall Carson

After turning in a solid display in Friday’s 2-0 win against Moldova in Dublin, Randolph will be hoping to keep another clean sheet tonight in Cardiff.

By drawing in Serbia and overcoming Austria, Ireland have already secured some encouraging results on the road in this campaign. But one more is required if they’re to stay on track to qualify for a first World Cup since 2002.

“I couldn’t tell you,” said Randolph, when asked to explain why Ireland’s recent performances away from home have seemingly been better than what they’ve produced at the Aviva Stadium.

“If I knew why, we might be able to change that if that was the case. Maybe sometimes it can be easier if you’re the away team and the expectancy isn’t on you to go and force the issue in the football match. That could be why.”

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Paul Dollery

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