Liverpool’s Europa League Opener: A Crucial Moment for Caoimhin Kelleher
As Liverpool prepares to face Austrian team LASK in their Europa League debut this Thursday, it marks a significant 116 days since Caoimhin Kelleher was last seen in action.
Kelleher’s Time Away from the Limelight
The 24-year-old goalkeeper is anticipated to make a return this week, having observed from the bench as Alisson Becker, Liverpool’s primary choice, dominated the field in the previous Premier League season. Kelleher’s lone appearance was during the dramatic 4-4 draw against Southampton on May 28.
It’s been a staggering 315 days since Kelleher showcased his prowess at Anfield, notably saving three penalties during a Carabao Cup victory against Derby County. However, Liverpool’s subsequent defeat to Manchester City meant his stint was short-lived.
The Goalkeeper’s Dilemma
Kelleher’s journey has been a topic of discussion both for him and the club. His undeniable talent positions him as a potential regular Premier League goalkeeper. He’s well-regarded within the team, forming strong bonds with coaches and fellow players. Yet, displacing Alisson remains a challenge.
This shift to the sidelines has repercussions. Kelleher lost his spot in the Republic of Ireland team to Southampton’s Gavin Bazunu. The reason? Bazunu’s consistent playtime, even if it’s in the Championship. Kelleher’s last international game was in March.
This week’s match against LASK is pivotal for Kelleher. It’s an opportunity to reassert his capabilities and potentially make the Europa League his domain, reminiscent of his contribution to Liverpool’s domestic cup double in 2022.
The Transfer Window’s Echoes
The recent Premier League transfer season witnessed a flurry of goalkeeper signings. Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Brentford showed interest in Kelleher. However, they opted for other choices, leaving Kelleher at Liverpool, who were only open to an “extraordinary” bid.
Kelleher’s commitment to Liverpool remained unwavering post the transfer window. Yet, the question lingers: how long will he wait? Danny Ward’s move to Leicester City in 2018 serves as a cautionary tale. Ward hoped to replace Kasper Schmeichel but ended up as a backup.
The Europa League: A Silver Lining?
The Europa League might be Kelleher’s saving grace this season. If Liverpool had stayed in the Champions League, his opportunities would have been limited. Jurgen Klopp had previously emphasised the importance of giving Kelleher adequate playtime, especially recalling his role in the Carabao Cup final victory against Chelsea.
However, time is of the essence. Kelleher, soon to be 25, has limited Premier League appearances. In comparison, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale boasts over 200 senior games. Younger goalkeepers like Brighton’s Verbruggen are also securing regular Premier League minutes.
Training alongside Alisson and under coach John Achterberg has undoubtedly enriched Kelleher’s skills. His evolution from his early days at Ringmahon Rangers in Cork is evident. Liverpool’s management consistently praises him, but the looming question remains: how long will Kelleher be content as the second choice?