Ireland goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly: Mark Travers has the mark of quality

Quinto Do Lago

That Irish ’keeper Mark Travers played in midfield and upfront as a youngster before opting to go between the posts is now standing to him in his burgeoning top-flight career.

So says Ireland goalkeeping coach and former international Alan Kelly who notes that, in the way the game has evolved, modern net-minders have to be more than merely comfortable with the ball at their feet.

“I’d say it’s a must,” said Kelly, speaking yesterday at the Irish squad’s training base on the Algarve.

“I do my stats now for the goalkeepers and they are having between 40 and 60 touches of the ball - and I don’t mean catching a cross. The ball’s only in play for 58 or 60 minutes with injury time, so it’s critical.

"The training that I do now, a lot of it is based around playing out under pressure, multiple disciplines, you are catching the ball and then delivering it - it’s putting them all together and creating that scenario in training.”

And Travers, who made a sensational Premier League debut for Bournemouth against Spurs early this month, was already possessed of a composed touch when Kelly, the then goalkeeping coach at Preston, first became aware of the Kildare man.

“It was something I noticed four or five years ago when we were looking at him,” he said. “Add that to the calmness and the character to deal with pressure. If you are playing out from the back you have to be able to deal with pressure, being in the right place at the right time. Nowadays, you are a footballer who specialises in goalkeeping.

“We tried to sign him at Preston when he was going from Rovers to Bournemouth. They must have offered him more money or whatever they do in the Premier League!

We were in Division One and they were Premier League and it’s turned out to be the right pathway for him. When I came in (with Ireland) he was one I thought was ready to step up.

Kelly suspects that the 20-year-old may have exceeded even Bournemouth’s expectations with his command performance against Spurs.

“When you look at the impact he made in that game, did it surprise them a bit? He went in there and got man of the match and they won the game, which was important for them where they were at the time. He has put down a real marker.

"He’s saying he’s not just there to have a couple of games as the next young prospect, he’s saying, ‘I want to challenge, give me the opportunity to challenge’. When he was in with Ireland in March we didn’t know a lot about him but he made his mark then too. Everyone said what an impressive goalkeeper, and an impressive young man, he was.”

And Kelly has no doubts that Travers, if given the chance, can continue to thrive in England’s top-flight.

“If you are good enough you are old enough. With the younger ones, they will have a little blip every now and again and it’s about managing to ride that out. When you are in the Premier League it’s easier said than done as the pressure to stay in that league and get points is different. But I think he has put himself in the situation now where he is challenging to be number one.”

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