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Caomhin Kelleher gets first taste of being No. 1 – where does that leave Liverpool?

Caoimhin Kelleher‘s best and busiest season yet for Liverpool showed his quality, but left familiar questions about his future.

Kelleher enters the summer break, and indeed the summer transfer market, on the back of what was his most active season as a first-team goalkeeper.

He proved himself Premier League quality at a minimum, and any teams looking for a new No. 1 goalkeeper this summer will no doubt have their eye on the Corkman.

The new setup at Liverpool will recognise the importance of quality backup between the posts and will try, once again, to convince him to stay.

Caoimhin Kelleher, 2023/24

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 26 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 0
Unused sub: 30
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Overall Season Rating: 8.07

 

Settling in

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 10, 2024: Liverpool's Joe Gomez (R) and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher after during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Prior to 2023/24, Kelleher had never made more than two appearances in a Premier League season and only made one in 2022/23.

Two injuries to Alisson meant that this season the Irishman became Liverpool’s temporary No. 1 on two occasions.

It took him some time to settle in league games for a team that was expected to win every game in which it played and challenge for the title.

He was deemed to be at fault for a couple of the goals conceded in a 4-3 win at home to Fulham in his first game, but gradually improved and found his feet.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher makes a save during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alisson returned for a short time as Kelleher continued to play in the cups before a second injury to the Brazilian gave him a run of eight league games to go with appearances in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and Europa League.

His campaign finished with 26 appearances, 3.25 times his previous career best of eight in 2021/22.

It was his first taste of what it felt like to be Liverpool’s No. 1, and he didn’t look out of place with such a status.

 

Proven cup winner

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher (L) and Conor Bradley celebrate after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Perhaps one of the biggest compliments you can give Kelleher is to point out that Liverpool didn’t look much better when Alisson returned towards the end of the season.

If anything, Kelleher dropping back to the bench coincided with the team dropping off in the title race.

That’s not to say they would have definitely been better off keeping Kelleher in the team — maintaining the familiarity that had built in the defence during an unbeaten league run of eight games, featuring six wins, in his presence — but at the same time, it’s not a thought to be discarded completely.

Kelleher was the mainstay in the side that lifted the Carabao Cup, playing every minute of every game as Liverpool lifted what was to be their final trophy under Jurgen Klopp.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher lifts the trophy after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

In that final alone, he faced an XGOT of 2.63 and still made nine saves and kept a clean sheet.

While he was part of the disappointing loss to Man United in the FA Cup and the heavy defeat to Atalanta in the disastrous Europa League quarter-final first leg, he’s already played a part in three trophy wins for Liverpool, including a big part in League Cup triumphs both in the season just gone and in 2022.

 

Happy backup?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Liverpool would hope to retain one of the best backup ‘keepers around, Kelleher has openly admitted he may seek first-team football elsewhere.

Alisson is still only 31 – relatively young for a goalkeeper – and his contract runs until the end of the 2026/27 season.

Kelleher turns 26 this season and is entering prime goalkeeper years. He has now had a run as Liverpool’s first choice and a taste of what it’s like to be the main man.

Should he stick around in case Alisson has similar injury problems in the coming years, or move elsewhere where he can be the regular No. 1?

SINGAPORE - Sunday, July 30, 2023: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher is substituted for goalkeeper Alisson Becker during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He will also want regular football in order to push for the No. 1 shirt for Ireland.

Liverpool are unlikely to part ways with Alisson, as might happen at Man City with Ederson following the impressive displays from their own quality backup, Stefan Ortega.

So this leaves Slot and his staff with the task of either convincing Kelleher to stay or finding a new backup goalkeeper of the same quality, which wouldn’t be an easy task.


Best moment: League Cup final, made one vital save after another.

Worst moment: Atalanta’s visit to Anfield.

Role next season: He’ll remain the backup should he choose to stay.