Caoimhin Kelleher Player Profile – Liverpool FC

caoimhin kelleher playing for liverpool

When Liverpool Football Club signed Alisson Becker, they signed one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The more that he played for the Reds, the clearer it became that he actually was the best goalkeeper in the world bar none. As a result, having a reserve goalkeeper who was good enough to cover for the Brazilian whilst also being as happy as can be to sit on the bench was never going to be easy.

Step forward Caoimhin Kelleher, the young Irishman who joined Liverpool in 2015 and soon made a name for himself as one of the best backup goalkeepers in the business, helping the Reds to win two League Cups in the space of three years.

In the first few years at the club, Kelleher simply worked to impress those at the Academy, knowing that the likes of Adrian were the second-choice goalkeeper at the time. It was important for him to prove himself at that level and ensure that the powers that be knew that he’d be able to step up to the plate when needed. He did just that, earning himself a winners’ medal after Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final, in spite of the fact that he was an unused substitute for the game.

It was just the start of what has gone on to become an impressive career for the Reds, being ready whenever he’s been called upon.

Who is Caoimhin Kelleher?

 

Caoimhín Odhrán Kelleher was born on the 22nd of November in 1998 in the city of Cork, Republic of Ireland. He attended Presentation Brothers College and was a key part of the football team at the religious school. He was playing for the Irish side Ringmahon Rangers when Liverpool wanted to sign him in 2015, not having to think too long about the decision to move to the Academy.

It wasn’t always his dream to be a goalkeeper, however. When he was younger, Kelleher played as a striker, which was something that would come to bear fruit as he learned the skill of goalkeeping and took his ball-playing skills to his new position.

His name is one that has flummoxed more than a few people, especially when you consider that it is pronounced Quivine. He played in Neil Critchley’s Under-18s squad during his first season at Liverpool, but he was soon moved up to play with the senior squad.

Although he’d obviously have had dreams of becoming the first choice goalkeeper, he adapted to his role as the reserve ‘keeper with admirable quality. The fact that he had been a striker that scored at least 20 goals a season when he was younger as well as being able to do a job in midfield didn’t seem to hamper his move to between the sticks.

He only moved into the goalkeeper’s slot when he was younger because his team needed him to in order to help them out, so it’s a sign of his personality that he not only did it but also excelled in the position. It is why Liverpool wanted him for the Academy and why he was able to make his quickly from being with the Under-18s to being part of Liverpool’s first-team squad.

Goalkeeper has been something of a problem position for the Reds over the years, with Pepe Reina arguably being the only top-level one that the club has had since the days of Bruce Grobbelaar. With Kelleher the backup to Alisson, it looked like that had changed.

Making His Debut

There had long been a suggestion that Jürgen Klopp didn’t take the League Cup all that seriously during his time at Anfield. The fact that he won the competition twice suggests that that might not be quite as true as some people think. What he did do, though, was use the tournament as a way to give young players a chance to earn their spurs.

In the September of 2019, that’s exactly what happened when he chose to give debuts to Kelleher, Rhian Brewster, Sepp van den Berg, Harvey Elliott, and Herbie Kane. For Kelleher, the most important thing was not just that Liverpool won the match, but that he was able to keep a clean sheet.

That was in a third round match against MK Dons, with Kelleher cementing his place as Liverpool’s goalkeeper for the League Cup four the 2019-2020 campaign. With the Reds going great guns in the Premier League, it was important to be able to give Alisson Becker a rest wherever possible. Kelleher allowed for exactly that, being an assured pair of hands whenever called upon.

He was in the action repeatedly during the next round of the League Cup, with Liverpool drawing 5-5 with Arsenal before winning 5-4 on penalties, thanks in no small part to the fact that the Irishman was able to save Dani Ceballos’s penalty kick.

It was another start for Kelleher in the next round, largely because Liverpool’s first-team was in Qatar ahead of the Club World Cup semi-final the following day. The Reds fielded their youngest ever side with an average age of 19.5, losing 5-0 in the process. One more start was on the cards for Kelleher, however, when Liverpool took on Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup at Anfield, winning 1-0.

It was only a tentative first set of appearances for the Irishman, but it set him in good stead for what was to follow. Liverpool, of course, won the Premier League that season before football changed dramatically as fans weren’t allowed in stadiums.

That situation continued into the following season, which was a shame for Kelleher as it meant that supporters weren’t there to see his Champions League debut against Ajax at Anfield. The Reds won 1-0, with Kelleher having to start after Alisson had picked up a minor injury. It meant that he also started the following two games, which included a 4-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield and a 1-1 draw with Midtjylland at the Arena Herning.

Alisson recovered, but Kelleher got two more appearances under his belt; one in a 4-1 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup and the other in a 1-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.

Penalty Shootout Hero

Having gained bits and bobs of experience during the previous two seasons, it was the 2021-2022 campaign when Kelleher really came to the fore. The young Irishman was made the cup goalkeeper by Jürgen Klopp, starting in a 3-0 win over Norwich City in the League Cup and needing to be called upon for a match against Watford in the Premier League that the Reds won 5-0.

It was another League Cup start and another penalty shootout performance in the League Cup fifth round, this time against Leicester City, with Kelleher saving the penalties of both Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand for the Foxes to send the Reds through to the semi-final.

Kelleher also started in goal for Liverpool against Shrewsbury Town in a game that the Reds won 4-1. The League Cup semi-final was against Arsenal, with Alisson preferred in goal in a 0-0 first-leg before Kelleher was selected again for the second-leg, which Liverpool prevailed as 2-0 winners. Kelleher got one more start before the final, this time during a 3-1 victory over Cardiff in the FA Cup.

It was the final where he really made a name for himself, however. The match against Chelsea ended 0-0, resulting in a penalty shootout in which all ten outfield players scored. It game down to the goalkeepers and former striker Kelleher scored his, with Kepa Arrizabalaga missing his.

There were no more starts for Kelleher in the 2021-2022 season, with Liverpool attempting to win an unlikely quadruple, but his heroics in the final were enough to secure one of the two trophies that the Reds won in the campaign. It was also proof, were Jürgen Klopp to need it, that he could be relied upon should the manager have a need to call upon him in the future.

That didn’t happen as much as he might have hoped during the 2022-2023 season, with Liverpool largely struggling for any kind of form. He had to start against Manchester City at the Etihad in a Premier League game that the Reds lost 2-0, as well as getting a start on the last day of the season.

Stepping Up When it Mattered

Having endured a disappointing season in 2022-2023, Liverpool were determined to get back on track the following year. Shock was the follow when Jürgen Klopp announced that it would also be his final season as the club’s manager, meaning that there was an emotional aspect to the entire thing. Kelleher was likely to be just as shocked and upset as his teammates, but with the Reds once again competing on all four fronts he didn’t have time to wallow.

Alisson Becker was ruled out for the long-term when he picked up a hamstring injury, resulting in Kelleher being asked to effectively take over as the club’s number one.

Having performed well in a 3-1 win over LASK in the Europa League and a win by the same scoreline against Leicester City in the League Cup, amongst other appearances in those competitions, Kelleher was well-placed to make the jump. Across the first ten appearances in all competition that he made in the first-choice goalkeeper’s absence, the Irishman conceded ten goals, helping Liverpool to eight wins, including another League Cup final victory.

He was also part of the reason the Reds got a draw against Manchester City and was unlucky to be on the losing side against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final.

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