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Caoimhin Kelleher could be handed favourable break for Ireland’s No. 1 spot

Caoimhin Kelleher looks set to take advantage of a late withdrawal from the Ireland squad, with his rival for the No. 1 spot Gavin Bazunu forced out due to illness.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny confirmed earlier this month that Portsmouth’s Bazunu, on loan from Man City, would be his first-choice goalkeeper despite Kelleher’s recent League Cup success.

Kenny spoke glowingly of Liverpool’s No. 2, saying: “He’s laconic, makes goalkeeping nearly an art form. It’s beautiful to watch him, aesthetically amazing to watch.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a goalkeeper, brilliant to watch, such style and composure under pressure.”

But with regular game time counting against him at club level, Kelleher was to also assume No. 2 duties for his country for this month’s friendly fixtures against Belgium and Lithuania.

Illness for Bazunu clears the path for Kelleher to earn his third international cap against Belgium on Saturday, with Kenny’s third goalkeeper Mark Travers also out due to injury.

DUBLIN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - Sunday, October 11, 2020: Republic of Ireland's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the pre-match warm-up before the UEFA Nations League Group Stage League B Group 4 match between Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bristol City’s Max O’Leary and Bohemians’ James Talbot have been called up to take their place, and with neither having made a senior Ireland appearance, Kelleher’s position in goal appears a certainty.

Kelleher’s two caps for Ireland came in June and October of last year, but he has been a regular member of the squad since 2020, and his tally is set to double in the next five days.

It’ll be an invaluable chance for Kelleher to put his best foot forward and heap pressure on Bazunu for the No. 1 spot, with Belgium and Lithuania offering two different kinds of tests.

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