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Dublin: 0°C Saturday 23 January 2021

David Meyler: Caoimhín comes from a great sporting family and hard work at Liverpool now paying off

In this week’s column, the ex-Ireland midfielder predicts a bright future for his fellow Corkman and reveals which way he sees the North London derby going this weekend.

Kelleher was outstanding for Liverpool on his Champions League debut.
Kelleher was outstanding for Liverpool on his Champions League debut.
Image: Paul ELLIS

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler has joined The42 as our new football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices. 

In his latest piece, he speaks about the rise of Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher at reigning champions Liverpool before turning his attention to Sunday’s North London derby.

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Liverpool v Wolves, 7.15pm Sunday 

The most positive story from this week has to be Caoimhín Kelleher’s outstanding Champions League debut — not just for Irish football, but for Cork too! 

For a 22-year-old goalkeeper whose only previous first-team experience had come in domestic cup competitions, I thought he played exceptionally well against Ajax on Tuesday night.

It is a difficult position to carve out a career in, especially at one of the Premier League’s top clubs. 

Just look at the astronomical fees they have paid trying to secure world-class goalkeepers in recent times. Manchester City shelled out €40 million to Benfica for Ederson in the summer of 2017. 

A year later, Liverpool spent €75m to sign another Brazilian stopper, Alisson, from Roma. Not wanting to be outdone, Chelsea agreed to meet Athletic Bilbao’s release clause of €80m so they could bring in 23-year-old Kepa Arrizabalaga as a replacement for Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois.

That move didn’t work out and Arrizabalaga has been cast aside for Edouard Mendy, who arrived from Rennes in September.

The fee Manchester United stumped up for David de Gea in 2011 is dwarfed by those sums, but it was the British transfer record for a goalkeeper at the time and he is currently the club’s top earner on a reported €410,000 per week.

So when an opportunity arises you’ve got to take it and anyone watching events unfold at Anfield in midweek will agree that Caoimhín did exactly that.

There was a stat going around after the game that he is the first Irish goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League group stages. We’ve only seen a smattering of players feature in the proper rounds of the tournament since the European Cup was rebranded and they have tended be in outfield positions.

Shay Given, a genuine legend in this country with 134 caps to his name, played two campaigns in the continent’s elite club competition for Newcastle United but you’re going back 18 years — when Bobby Robson’s side faced the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen.

That makes Caoimhín’s achievement all the more impressive and I’ve no doubt that he will go on to do great things in the game.

He comes from a great sporting family. I played hurling with his older brothers Olan and Tim at Blackrock, and their late father Ray (who sadly passed away in 2014) used to coach us. 

Another brother, Fiacra, spent time at Celtic and is now with Wrexham, while sister Cáit is a good camogie player. They’re serious golfers too. 

Caoimhín was called up to train with the senior Ireland squad when I was still involved, and, having heard about him, I remember being excited to see how this kid was developing. 

When we did shooting practice at the end of a session, young goalkeepers would be asked to jump in nets. He didn’t look out of place but the thing that struck me most at the time was how good he was with his feet.

Jurgen Klopp mentioned the other night that he picked Caoimhín over Adrian for his passing ability but we also saw how talented a shot stopper he is — particularly when he kept out that close-range header from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

david-meyler-with-caoimhin-kelleher Me and Caoimhín during Ireland training in 2018. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He has clearly put in the hard work since arriving at Liverpool from Ringmahon Rangers as a 16-year-old and says he now wants to kick on by earning more minutes.

There was talk of a loan spell to an Eredivisie club before Alisson injured his shoulder in October, and he will be having those conversations with Klopp and the club.

Kelleher is part of a batch of talented young Irish goalkeepers coming through. We’ve seen Gavin Bazunu leave Manchester City on loan for the season to get first-team experience under Brian Barry-Murphy at League One side Rochdale, and that is a viable option.

At the moment, however, I’d be happy for Caoimhín to learn his trade with the Reds as he’s training with one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Everyday, he gets first-hand experience of the processes Alisson goes through to stay at the top of his game.

At some stage, he will need to play regular football, of course, but goalkeepers can go on until they’re 40 if they look after themselves so time is on his side.

Alisson is expected to be out for two weeks with this latest hamstring problem and Caoimhín has put his hand up to be picked ahead of Adrian against Wolves this Sunday, meaning Klopp has a decision to make.

Wolves have been quite unpredictable this season, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from them. They earned an important win against Arsenal, but it came at a cost and I hope Raul Jimenez makes a speedy recovery after fracturing his skull.

Liverpool qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek and I feel that the machine will roll on to claim a 2-1 victory at Anfield.

Tottenham v Arsenal, 4.30pm Sunday 

At one stage, it seemed as if Arsenal were moving in the right direction under Mikel Arteta but they appear to have taken a couple of steps backwards.

Sitting 14th in the table, they’re not playing free-flowing football, they’re not creating a lot of chances and they’re not scoring many goals. That is a major concern.

tottenham-hotspur-v-arsenal-premier-league-tottenham-hotspur-stadium The Gunners are away at Spurs on Sunday. Source: Tim Goode/NMC Pool/PA Wire

There will be a section of Gunners fans who want to see the manager sacked, but he needs time. It probably went a bit too well for him at the start — winning the FA Cup — but he is still trying to iron out a number of issues at the club.

Sunday’s North London derby gives them the chance to get one over on their rivals and kickstart their season. At the same time, I like what Jose Mourinho is doing at Tottenham and I’m predicting a 2-0 win for Spurs — regardless of whether injury concern Harry Kane plays or not.

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code P30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org

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