Caoimhin Kelleher made his second start of the season on Sunday, this time on the international stage in a 1-0 win over Malta, in a game the Ireland camp admitted was not “a classic.”
Liverpool’s second-choice goalkeeper has had to watch the majority of games on the sidelines this season after an injury at the end of 2021/22 carried over into this campaign.
Aside from blowing off the cobwebs at academy level, Kelleher got his first senior minutes under his belt during Liverpool’s Carabao Cup clash against Derby.
And we all know what happened there, with Kelleher making three saves in the shootout – meaning he has now won more penalty shootouts than any other goalkeeper in Liverpool history, with four.
It was a dramatic conclusion to his maiden start in 2022/23 and certainly more eventful than his latest cap for Ireland.
The friendly in Malta saw Kelleher named in Stephen Kenny’s XI for the first time since the summer, in what was a valuable outing for the 23-year-old, even if it was ‘far from a classic’.
Callum Robinson’s second-half strike secured a narrow victory for Ireland, with Kelleher called into only one meaningful save during a match that had only four shots on target combined.
It’s a clean sheet nevertheless, Kelleher’s fifth in nine appearances for his country.
“It was important to keep a clean sheet tonight,” manager Kenny said after the match. “There is no doubt that the match itself wasn’t a classic, far from it.
“But we were pleased that we got a clean sheet and there were some good aspects to it. But we have played a lot better and lost.”
Kelleher had watched Gavin Bazunu in goal a few days prior in Ireland’s defeat to Norway as Kenny made sure to dish out minutes to both goalkeepers after previously saying “there isn’t a number one.”
While for many Reds the international period only adds further minutes onto a gruelling schedule, for Kelleher it was a valuable match to get under his belt – with his next likely to come against Man City in the Carabao Cup.