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'Caoimhín is in a good position now' - Kelleher gets his chance to stake starting claim

With Gavin Bazunu and Mark Travers out, the Liverpool goalkeeper has the chance to make his case to be Stephen Kenny’s first-choice.

Caoimhín Kelleher.
Caoimhín Kelleher.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ILLNESS AND INJURY has winnowed Ireland’s goalkeeping ranks but such is their depth in that position that they can still call upon Liverpool’s cup-winning hero for Saturday’s friendly with Belgium. 

Gavin Bazunu has been ruled out of the friendly double-header with Belgium and Lithuania through illness while Mark Travers has returned to Bournemouth with injury, leaving Caoimhin Kelleher in pole position to step into the breach for the upcoming games. Kelleher himself was late reporting for camp though illness, but he trained today along with late call-ups James Talbot and Max O’Leary. 

“Caoimhín is in a good position now, he needed a bit of luck”, said defender Shane Duffy at Abbottstown this afternoon.

“Gavin has performed unbelievably for us and he’s going to be a miss but football is about taking chances, hopefully Caoimhín will come in and does what he does for Liverpool. We are a bit lucky in that position.”

It is a wheeling of the fates for Kelleher’s.

A year ago, ahead of the start of Ireland’s World Cup qualification campaign, he was the most likely to deputise when then-first choice Darren Randolph was ruled out of the opening double-header through injury. Kelleher, however, was then ruled out with injury, and thus Travers started the opening game in Belgrade.

Travers’ performance that night saw Kenny prefer Bazunu for the subsequent home game with Luxembourg, and he has been first-choice ever since. 

Saturday’s meeting with the world number one side now offers Kelleher his chance to stake a claim for to be the number one for the Nations League campaign in June. 

O’Leary, meanwhile, was today drafted in to replace Bazunu for his first appearance in the international set-up since joining a May 2019 training camp under Mick McCarthy. O’Leary has made 11 appearances for Bristol City in the Championship this season, 36 appearances overall, and qualifies through his 

His selection shows just how far Randolph has fallen from favour, the West Ham ‘keeper currently deemed sixth-choice at best. (That status might even be contested: Derry City goalkeeper Brian Maher trained with the squad on Tuesday before linking up with the U21s, to cover Kelleher’s delayed arrival.)

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When the FAI announced Talbot’s call-up on Instagram yesterday, Randolph commented, “‘I haven’t retired yet..I must be too old”, accompanied emojis waving for the FAI’s attention and expressing his puzzlement. He quickly followed up to say he was “just bantering.” 

The full Irish squad trained today at Abbottstown, with no new injury concerns. And while the depth at goalkeeper is obvious, Duffy was quick to praise the options Kenny has across all positions. 

“The squad the manager’s built over the last year anyone can come in and produce and play, that’s the trust we have among the group. In the last few games we’ve had a bit of continuity in the team and it’s worked.

“The trust is there, we had a camp last summer in Spain and from that moment on it’s been similar squads and the same players. When you play together for longer it gets better and that’s how it’s been over the year. Every time I come in it’s the same faces and it’s exciting every time.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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