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'My phone has been hopping' - Kelleher hails Champions League debut for Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp also explained the Irish goalkeeper’s selection ahead of Adrian for a key meeting with Ajax.

Kelleher is embraced by Jurgen Klopp.
Kelleher is embraced by Jurgen Klopp.
Image: PA

IRISH GOALKEEPER CAOIMHIN Kelleher hailed an “amazing” Champions League debut after Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Ajax tonight. 

22-year-old Cork native Kelleher was selected to replace the injured Alisson for tonight’s game, ahead of usual second-choice Adrian.

Kelleher kept a clean sheet and made several good saves, most notably a point-blank save from a Klaas Jan Huntelaar header in the closing stages. 

“It was amazing to make my debut in a Champions League game, it was massive for me. Obviously the most important thing was to get the win and qualify, which we did, so yeah, great night”, Kelleher told BT Sport.

“I work every day in training to make sure I’m ready when it comes to a game, thankfully tonight I was able to make a good few saves.” 

Naturally, Kelleher’s selection caught the imagination back home. 

“My phone has been hopping since I got in! But big thanks to every one there, all the support and messages I’ve been getting, I’m thankful for them.” 

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 Kelleher’s distribution also caught the eye, and it was ultimately that skill that earned him his sport ahead of Adrian. 

“In this game, we needed the natural football-playing ability of Caoimh. He’s a really good shot-stopper too. I’m really happy with how calm he was, and how good he was. It was a good game”, said Klopp. 

“It’s quite easy for me to be honest”, said Kelleher of his calmness in possession. “The players in front of me, when the ball comes back to me, they always make easy options and make my decisions so much easier. It was easy for me with those players in front.” 

Kelleher was one of a trio of Liverpool’s youngsters to impress, with Neco Williams setting up Curtis Jones’ winning goal. 

“We’re not here just to take part, we want to push every day and play as many games as we can. You can see we are making a difference and improving the team, so yeah, it’s good.”

Kelleher came close to leaving Liverpool on loan at the start of the season, but an injury to Alisson saw him kept at the club as back-up to Adrian, and has now usurped the Spanish goalkeeper. 

The goalkeeper tonight became the first Irish player to make a Champions League appearance for Liverpool since Robbie Keane did so in 2009. Indeed, he was the first Irish player to play in the Champions League for anyone since Eoghan O’Connell did so for Celtic in 2016.

Alisson, meanwhile, looks set to miss Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Wolves, with Kelleher in pole position to retain his spot and add a Premier League debut to a great week. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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