Caoimhin Kelleher has already blossomed into a fine young goalkeeper, with the potential to become Ireland’s and Liverpool’s long-term number one goalkeeper.
The 22-year-old broke onto the scene last season with brief but impressive displays in the Premier League and Champions League and will look to kick on as Alisson Becker’s understudy.
In this piece, I will refer to his fine performances last season and look ahead to the important role he will play in the upcoming footballing year.
A quick 2020/21 recap
With Alisson out injured and Adrian producing some unconvincing displays, there was a certain nervousness amongst the fanbase ahead of Liverpool’s 5th UEFA Champions League group game against Ajax.
This feeling was amplified when the fans realised that the relatively unknown Kelleher would feature in the starting XI.
If Liverpool won the fixture, it would guarantee qualification to the knockout rounds and top spot in the group. Yet, a loss would apply a great deal of pressure on the Red's in the final group game, away to Midtjylland.
Kelleher did not put a foot wrong as Curtis Jones’ goal was enough to send the team through. Yet, it was the debutant keeper who stole the limelight away from his fellow teammates.
Kelleher produced an impressive point-blank save to deny Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Ajax a share of the spoils at Anfield.
A debut Champions League clean sheet was swiftly followed by a debut Premier League clean sheet against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
This time, Liverpool’s Number 62 showcased his dynamism in the 17thminute by expertly clawing out Daniel Podence’s chip from the top corner.
As a result, Kelleher became the youngest ever Liverpool goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet on their first league appearance.
Although brief, Kelleher’s 2020/21 performances promoted him to become Liverpool’s number two goalkeeper, displacing the experienced Adrian. As further recognition of his new status, the Irishman was handed a brand-new long-term contract.
James Pearce, The Athletic, stated that this was ‘Reward for his impressive progress last season. Now the No 2 behind Alisson.’
The 2021/22 Expectation
In short, I expect more matches, more saves and a huge opportunity to enter club folklore.
Should he be injury-free this season, expect Kelleher to be the number one for League and FA Cup fixtures. Last season’s performances will have installed an added layer of faith in the young Irishman for Jurgen Klopp,
However, frustratingly as a number two goalkeeper, the number of matches that the Irish international will play is solely dependent on factors out of his control.
1) How far Liverpool progress in domestic cup competition.
Whilst Kelleher can use the League and FA Cup to gain further experience and prove himself as a top-class keeper, ultimately, football is a team game.
In recent years, Liverpool FC have famously utilised the domestic cup fixtures to give match time to fringe players and allow rest for first-team members.
Henceforth, Kelleher may not be given the opportunity to demonstrate his ability in many fixtures this coming season.
Therefore, there runs the risk that the fans may not get many chances to witness the exciting talent of Kelleher, in the upcoming season.
On the contrary, should Liverpool embark on a much-needed cup run, Kelleher will have the chance to embed himself into the great and famous story of Liverpool FC.
Like any season, there is always the possibility of Kelleher contributing heavily to a trophy for Liverpool FC.
A great example is that of Adrian in the 2019 European Super Cup, despite being a divisive figure amongst the Liverpool fanbase, Adrian’s penalty shootout heroics will be immortalised into the club’s history.
Such an opportunity will undoubtedly be the realistic motivation for Kelleher this season.
2) Alisson Becker’s fitness.
In the previous ‘What to Expect?’ article, I focused on Alisson Becker. The Brazilian is undoubtedly seen as Liverpool’s number one. Yet, the past couple of season’s have not been plain sailing for him.
Injury in the league winning 2019/20 season allowed Adrian to make a large contribution to Liverpool’s success that year. With the Spaniard making 11 league appearance and conceding only 10 goals.
As Alisson’s new understudy, Kelleher will be ready to pounce at any opening to the coveted number one spot. And, as a Liverpool fan, I would have incredible belief in Kelleher doing an impressive job in any Premier League or Champions League fixtures.
The upcoming season will be the most important of Caoimhin Kelleher’s young career. It will involve more game time, matchday involvement and potential to be a leading star in Liverpool’s season.
Kelleher has shown no fear as a Liverpool goalkeeper so far. This specific trait is unique and special for a young football player and is made even more impressive considering the isolation and self-awareness of the goalkeeper position.
I expect this fearless attitude to thrust Kelleher into the unique Liverpool FC limelight, with the expectation that he will produce moments engraved in the minds of the club’s fanbase worldwide.