Darren Randolph and Rob Elliot may be scrapping for the No 1 jersey, but a strong friendship and a shared dream is bonding them as they look to set the Republic of Ireland on the road to Russia.

The two first crossed paths at Charlton Athletic as academy prospects and struck up a kinship that remains today.

They've drifted on different professional paths over the last 13 years, but Ireland duty has always reunited the stoppers. Ahead of the play-off first leg against Denmark, they reflected on a journey that could end up on the biggest stage of all.

"Me and Rob were in the academy at Charlton together. We've come all this way, and now both of us could potentially be in a World Cup," said Randolph, who has played every minute of the qualification campaign and will fully expect to get the nod in Copenhagen on Saturday night. 

"We were 15,16 in the academy. I was a first year, he was a second year. We got on straight away.

"I played (for Ireland) at underage. Rob was the same. He knew he could play for Ireland so that was something he always wanted to do. It was just a case of trying to get that chance and make it happen." 

Newcastle man Elliot said there's no needle between the keepers despite the obvious competition for that spot between the sticks; rather, they enjoy driving each other to greater heights for the greater good.

"Obviously it would be a brilliant achievement for everyone in the country but for us, we've played youth team together... it would be amazing to get to Russia. 

"I don't really see him as a rival. We're very good mates; we work hard together and try to help each other in training. At the end of the day, the manager picks the team.

"We can only work as hard as we can for ourselves but it's down to the manager to pick it. You just respect that.

"If anything it makes you closer as keepers. We know how hard it is. Some managers come in and pick you, whereas a new manager can come in and you're in the cold. There's nothing we can really do about that. It's nothing personal. We work hard together and what will be will be."

Elliot missed the European Championships in France last year, cruelly robbed of a place on the plane after tearing his anterior crucial ligament in a 2-2 Aviva Stadium draw with Slovakia.

He's hoping Lady Luck shines on him this time around.

"Especially missing the Euros, for me, it would make up for that. We're not there yet, we've got two tough games but it's the pinnacle for any footballer to go to the World Cup.

"I'd definitely say I'm behind Darren. He's been brilliant. It's my job to do well for Newcastle and come in and do well here, support the guys, support the team and just be ready."

Randolph, shining at Middlesbrough in the Championship, is braced for one more massive hurdle before paradise is reached.

"It's going to be close. We'll try to figure each other out. It's different when you're in a group with a team because you get so many chances to see them. 

"It would go up as the greatest achievement so far, to get to a World Cup. It doesn't happen to us that often. I'm hoping it's meant to be this time."

Live coverage of Denmark v Ireland on RTÉ 2 (7.25pm), live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport and live blog on RTÉ.ie from 6pm.