Caoimhín Kelleher’s rise to Liverpool’s number 2

Irish football has faced a crisis off the pitch the past two years and on the pitch it has been a real struggle too. A poor end to the Martin O’Neill reign which should have ended after the 5-1 play off loss to Denmark, was followed by the damp squib of a return by Mick McCarthy and now we are into the new era under Stephen Kenny, which has been a real struggle so far.  The World Cup qualifiers begin this month and expectations of Ireland are at an all time low.

So, any good news surrounding an Irish footballer is very much welcome. Cue, Caoimhín Kelleher’s unexpected rise to Liverpool’s number 2 goalkeeper. In December 2020, an injury to Allison Beeker (Liverpool’s superb no. 1 keeper) coupled with the loss of form of Adrián Castillo (his howler against Atletico Madrid led to Liverpool going out of the Champions League in March 2020) and Klopp’s loss of confidence in Adrian, all led to Kelleher been named in nets for a vital Champions League game against Ajax in December. 90 minutes later, a clean sheet and a confident performance showed Ireland fans why Kelleher was still highly rated by Klopp and Liverpool.

If you go back over the past two seasons and Kelleher’s occasional appearances in EFL Cup games they weren’t great as he conceded a lot of goals, and if you read back on comments about him on the ybig forum, most fans didn’t think his prospects were all that good. But if you take a chance on the Unibet Bonus Code, you can improve your luck by taking advantage of this great opportunity.

Since the Ajax game, Kelleher has featured once more in the Champions League v Midtjylland and played two leagues games a 4-0 victory against Wolves and a 1-0 loss against Brighton. He now has the number 2 spot as his own (although due to Kelleher currently been injured Adrian started in the league game against Sheffield United on February 28th).

Kelleher’s qualities
He doesn’t really look like a keeper, if you know what I mean, he seems non plussed a surfs up dude type (that’s a compliment by the way). When he was playing in Cork, at youth level with Ringmahon Rangers, he was the same then. And considering been a keeper at the highest level is 90% mental, Kelleher looks well equipped on that side of things.

The other aspect of his game is excellent footwork. And having started as a striker and converted to a keeper at 14 years old he still has retained excellent passing skills. In today’s game it’s not enough to make great saves and command your box, you now have to be the first line of attack, and be exceptionally confident passing it within your own box while number 9s and 11s lurk to pounce on any stray pass. They often say of Man City’s number 1, Ederson (Santana de Moraes) that he could play outfield such is the quality of his passing, while it’s far too early to say the same of Kelleher it’s certainly a strong feature of his game.

Darren Randolph, is still Stephen Kenny’s number 1 and he has been Ireland’s best player alongside Shane Duffy the past few years, but both Randolph and Duffy have struggled with Kenny’s possession and passing from the back philosophy. A role which Kelleher seems far better suited too.

With Randolph, also a 2nd choice keeper with West Ham his position as Irish No1 over the course of this World Cup qualifying campaign may be under threat. At club level Kelleher will get more opportunities with Liverpool as Allison is quite injury prone. So it’s a perfect learning environment before becoming a number 1, whether that’s at Liverpool or elsewhere remains to be seen but it’s welcome silver lining in Kenny’s grey winter.

Words. Alan Phelan

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