Monday 21 October 2019

Kelleher in relaxed mood as Reds future at crossroads

Caoimhin Kelleher warming up with Ireland’s U-21s at the Toulon Tournament ahead of Monday’s victory over China. Photo: Sportsfile
Caoimhin Kelleher warming up with Ireland’s U-21s at the Toulon Tournament ahead of Monday’s victory over China. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Some day next week, Sunday at the latest, Caoimhin Kelleher will board a plane to Greece and make the blissful move of disconnecting from the outside world.

His departure won't be on a jet chartered by Liverpool or the FAI, instead he'll slip away into the crowd.

"I've a holiday booked with my girlfriend after this tournament," he says while on his last duties of the season, the return of Ireland's U-21 side to the Toulon Tournament in France, ' he says.

"I plan to switch the phone off and relax. I've not spoken to anybody at Liverpool about next season."

The chances are that Jurgen Klopp and his staff are already making plans for the Corkman.

Central to the Reds' recent success was the acquisition of Allison, yet the cast of understudies is far from certain. Simon Mignolet has indicated his days of acting as deputy may be over, while Adam Bogdan is definitely on his way.

Caoimhin Kelleher (right) celebrating Liverpool’s Champions League win with team-mates Simon Mignolet and Alisson in June. Photo: Getty
Caoimhin Kelleher (right) celebrating Liverpool’s Champions League win with team-mates Simon Mignolet and Alisson in June. Photo: Getty

Awash with cash, there exists the possibility of the club forking out for a new netminder rather than rely on a couple of 20-year-olds in Kelleher and Kamil Grabara as cover.

The Leesider is officially third-choice, enough to earn him a place on the bench for last Saturday's Champions League final and one of the golden medals. His next step could depend on the opinion of John Achterberg, Klopp's goalkeeping coach.

Kelleher himself is open-minded about his Anfield future.

"I could go out on loan to get matches or stay around but I'm only 20 and goalkeepers don't need games so young to develop," he reasons.

"I've got to work with two top goalkeepers, Allison and Simon, every day in training and there's been a lot learnt from that too."

Between the build-up to Saturday's final in Madrid, the subsequent celebrations and trekking to France in the nick of time for Monday's U-21 game against China U-23s, merely catching his breath has been the priority.

"I'm quite good at blocking out the club situation while I'm on Ireland duty," he says. "Of course, the last week has been mental, a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it was brilliant to be around the Liverpool squad.

"We stayed in Madrid on Saturday, came back for the parade on Sunday and I flew to France on Monday. It didn't bother me going from Madrid to playing in front of a small crowd with Ireland."

Scant

His midday arrival at Nice Airport, a two-hour drive from the stadium in Aubagne, left scant room for error if Kelleher was to make Ireland's opener.

"I was getting information about China from the pre-match meeting through WhatsApp messages on my phone," Kelleher said about the final leg of his journey.

"After spending almost two weeks in camp with the gaffer for his first match against Luxembourg in March, I know what he expects from us. There were no issues.

"I'm used to a certain style at Liverpool where they like to play out from the back. It was nice to see Stephen taking that approach as well. For a goalkeeper such as myself who likes the ball at his feet, it is brilliant. That's one of the reasons why I liked to watch Manuel Neuer in the last few years.

"Against China, I had to come out a bit to clear balls because of the high defensive line we played. I was always confident we'd win the match. Our team creates chances and our front three players can put those away."

There were no signs of rustiness in the goalkeeper, a superb save when the Asians chased an equaliser evidence of his agility in the 4-1 victory.

Another three games at the 12-nation tournament, starting tomorrow against the talented Mexicans, are guaranteed before Kelleher gets his well-deserved rest.

The start of next season will tell a tale about his immediate future for club and country. Mark Travers, his rival through the Ireland ranks at underage level, skipped ahead into the more recent senior squads.

Both have plenty more years to establish themselves in a team due to be managed by Kenny.

"I know Mark well and I'm delighted he's done so well this season," Kelleher said of his peer at Bournemouth. "I think the future of Ireland team is in safe hands."

Irish Independent

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