Caoimhin Kelleher already targeting Liverpool's no 1 jersey after delight at pecking order promotion

By Michael Scully

Caoimhín Kelleher admits he now has his sights set on being Liverpool's number one.

Kelleher, 22, will hit another career milestone tonight when he starts his first senior international for Ireland.

He has played second fiddle to another rising netminder, his former Ireland under-21 colleague Gavin Bazunu, but the Corkman is prepared to play the long game for club and country.

Kelleher made his Liverpool debut last year and acquitted himself well.

Jurgen Klopp has promoted him to be the club's number two keeper behind Allison Becker this season and he kept a clean sheet in the Carabao Cup against Norwich three weeks ago.

With Becker likely to be late back due to quarantine issues after playing for Brazil, Kelleher could make his first Premier League appearance of the season at Watford next Saturday.

After turning down the chance of a loan move to Holland a year ago, he is ambitious to push on at Anfield.

"There’s no point being somewhere and not thinking you could be number one," stated Kelleher.

"You have to have that mentality and I want to push on and be number one - and hopefully if I get a chance I’ll take it.

Caoimhin Kelleher of Liverpool clears from Adam Idah of Norwich City (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

"I’m just focused on when I do get games for Liverpool that I can put in a good performance and show that I am capable of playing at that level.

"I’ll just keep (working). I’m just trying to keep pushing on, and hopefully one day I’ll get that chance.

"I’m always ready to go on, but I don’t think there has been any injury. If there is I’ll be ready to come on."

Republic of Ireland Squad Training, FAI National Training Centre, Dublin 11/10/2021 Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Of course, Kelleher is also benefiting from the fact that he is training with the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane every day.

"Some of the best players in the world are training (at Liverpool), so it can only improve you as a player by training at that level," he said.

"It has helped me a lot and I just look forward to training every day, trying to improve and to better myself.

"It’s great to be in and around that and learn from it. It means a lot to me - I’m so happy to be going in every day and learning from players with such a high quality."

Kelleher insisted yesterday he had "no regrets" about passing up the chance to go on loan, even though Bazunu's decision to do so - moving from Manchester City to Portsmouth, as he had done to Rochdale the season before - put the 19-year-old into pole position for game time with Ireland.

Reflecting on that opportunity in Holland, Kelleher recalled: "It was quite close and maybe if a few injuries hadn't happened, I'd have gone but a few injuries happened and I wasn't able to go.

"I think since I didn't go on loan, I got my chance with Liverpool and did quite well, I am second choice there so that's quite a big step for me.

"Some conversations were had about what was going to happen this season, and being number two.

"But the main ones were about the contract and just trying to negotiate that, to be honest.

"You always have to progress and not be stagnant. So the next step for me was to be number two, and I’ve taken that next step so I’m happy."

Caoimhín Kelleher with Gavin Bazunu in squad training at the Aviva Stadium in September (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Thus he has no issue with former Shamrock Rovers starlet Bazunu getting the nod ahead of him in the current World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bazunu started in all but the opening qualifier against Serbia in this campaign, having seized his chance when both Darren Randolph and next in line Kelleher were injured.

When asked how it feels to watch his colleague in action, Kelleher responded: "I don't know what you expect me to say, but I am happy for him, I like to see him do well.

"The goalkeeping group is quite close, we don't wish anything bad to happen - we all train collectively together to get the three points and if he makes a save I am just as happy as any player or fan watching, I want to get the win as well.

"We have known each other for three years maybe, since an under-21 camp and we get on well together.

"There are quite a few of us who were playing for the under-21s and made the transition to the senior team at the same time, so we are quite close.

"We know how good we all are, so we just want to make that next step and put some wins together and drive on from there."

Get the latest sports headlines straight to your inbox by signing up for free email alerts


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.