Not many would have guessed last week that Liverpool’s back-up keeper with just 17 senior career appearances in all competitions would be called the hero as they lift a piece of silverware.
That is exactly though what Caoimhin Kelleher did yesterday in the EFL Cup Final against Chelsea, after keeping a clean-sheet before scoring his spot-kick as the Reds won on penalties.
The Irish shot-stopper was trusted by manager Jurgen Klopp to keep out the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount – and the decision came under criticism from the likes of Jamie Carragher, who said: “I was the idiot before the game who questioned playing Kelleher – he’s the hero now!”
The 23-year-old, who was described as “faultless” didn’t just earn a medal for his heroics, he also wrote himself into the Liverpool history books after becoming the first goalkeeper to win three penalty shootouts for the club.
He was also singled out by his manager for praise, with Klopp calling him “the world’s best number two goalkeeper.”
Despite all the plaudits earned and heads turned with his performance, having been behind in the pecking order for four years now, it’s unlikely that the Cork-born keeper would be happy with being a ‘number two’ for much longer – however it’s crucial that the Merseyside club hold on to him.
Having a ready-made back-up option with enough quality to step in and replace Alisson – one of the world’s best, is something not many teams have the luxury of utilising.
An even bigger advantage to retaining Kelleher is his homegrown status, having been with the club since he joined as a 16-year-old back in 2015.
The club could look at letting Adrian go to free-up a foreign player spot in their squad registration, and they would not need to replace him with another goalkeeper either as the 6 foot 2 Republic of Ireland international has transitioned smoothly into becoming Klopp’s second-choice, and another keeper from the academy could soon follow suit.
Having a quality keeper like Kelleher who has come through the academy and knows the club inside and out as well as being able to cover for Alisson whenever required will also prevent the club from potentially spending millions, as other clubs have done, on a back-up.