Having joined Irish Premier Division side St Patrick’s Athletic on loan at the start of February, Liverpool youngster Vitezslav Jaros made a “top-class” debut on Friday.
Jaros left Kirkby in pursuit of valuable first-team experience last month, having been included in the matchday squad for the Champions League on three occasions earlier this season.
The 19-year-old goalkeeper’s destination was unexpected, but a switch to Dublin has given Jaros a platform to prove himself at senior level, arriving as first choice under manager Stephen O’Donnell.
His move to Ireland came before St Pat’s pre-season began, and he kept clean sheets against Wexford, Cobh Ramblers and UCD as he went the entire preparation schedule without conceding a goal.
After a positive start, then, Jaros was entrusted to make his senior professional debut in the campaign opener away to rivals Shamrock Rovers on Friday night, and produced an impressive display throughout.
The youngster enjoyed a quiet first half at the Tallaght Stadium, but was called into action more often after the break, forced to deny Danny Mandroiu and twice Graham Burke with strong saves.
An own goal from Shamrock Rovers’ Roberto Lopes broke the deadlock in the 87th minute, only for Aaron Greene to spoil Jaros’ debut with an equaliser two minutes later.
— St Patrick's Athletic FC (@stpatsfc) March 19, 2021
It was an excellent debut for the Czech, however, with ExtraTime naming Jaros their Man of the Match, while the St Pat’s Twitter page hailed him for a “top-class” effort.
From now, it is a full-on schedule for Jaros and St Pat’s, with the campaign due to run until November, and next up brings the visit of Drogheda United on March 27.
There are high hopes for Jaros in Dublin, but O’Donnell is realistic in acknowledging there could be difficulties ahead as he puts his faith in a 19-year-old as No. 1.
“Everyone’s been impressed with Vitez since he’s come into training but he’s a 19-year-old and goalkeeper is an unforgiving position,” he told the Irish Times earlier this month.
“Like with any keeper, there’s going to be mistakes made; no keeper goes through the season without making mistakes but he has a good stature, he’s a good size, technically he’s very good.
“He ticks a lot of the boxes required to be a very good goalkeeper so we’re excited by him, and he’s enjoying it, he settled in really well.”
Jaros’ academy counterpart, Kamil Grabara, has endured a series of trials while out on loan in recent years, but it can be argued that these are situations that help shape young goalkeepers.
The benefit of Jaros moving to Ireland for his first taste of senior football is that he will be largely operating out of the spotlight, and the hope will be that he can return to Liverpool later this year a much-improved player.