Stephen Kenny: 'We have good goalkeepers - they just need opportunities'

Caoimhín Kelleher 'really needs' regular first-team football
Stephen Kenny: 'We have good goalkeepers - they just need opportunities'

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly with goalkeepers Darren Randolph, Mark Travers and Caoimhin Kelleher. Manager Stephen Kenny says Ireland have good players competing for the number 1 jersey - but they need to be playing regularly for their clubs. Picture: INPHO/Matti Matikainen

Stephen Kenny says the Republic of Ireland “really need” Caoimhín Kelleher to get regular action at club level because he believes the Liverpool youngster is on the verge of displacing Darren Randolph as the established first choice goalkeeper.

The Ireland boss revealed that the 21-year-old had two loan options in the Dutch Eredivisie during the summer transfer window but that both deals were vetoed by Jurgen Klopp as a result of the shoulder injury suffered by Alisson.

Kelleher was understudy to Adrian while he deputised but since the Brazilian’s return to fitness the former Ringmahon Rangers schoolboy has been an onlooker from the stands.

It has been a source of frustration for Kenny, who revealed goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly cannot get over how impressive Kelleher has been in training.

But with Randolph number two in the pecking order at West Ham and the third stopper in the squad for this month’s games, Bournemouth’s Mark Travers, also warming the bench at club level, Kenny had toyed with the idea of calling on 18-year-old Gavin Bazunu.

The 18-year-old is on loan from Manchester City Rochdale and playing regularly in League One.

“If you want me to be honest, I considered promoting Gavin Bazunu into this squad, strongly, because his performances for Rochdale have been that good,” Kenny admitted.

“But the fact is that he has only played three U21 games, because Caoimhín Kelleher was exceptional for the 21s.

“In training, Alan Kelly can’t believe how good Caoimhin Kelleher is having seen him in training. He hadn’t appreciated how good he is.

We really need Caoimhín Kelleher to get matches under his belt because he is ready to play for us now, we feel. He is good enough to play for Ireland. But he is not playing matches so it is an issue.

“He was supposed to go on loan to Holland, to a couple of clubs in the Eredivisie in the last window but when the first choice got injured at Liverpool, that move was pulled. He wants to go on loan, he was ready to play and certainly we feel we would have benefited from that.

“But it’s not easy to play at Liverpool, they are world champions at club level aren’t they, so it’s not easy to play there. Gavin is an 18-year-old goalkeeper with leadership qualities and a lot of qualities.

“Mark Travers has already made his senior debut so we have good goalkeepers, they just need to get opportunities.

“Gavin has gone to League One to play with Rochdale and the reports have been good. I’ve seen him play and Alan Kelly has watched all of his 11 games and is very impressed.

“Getting back to the Darren Randolph question. He went to West Ham to compete and be the No 1 and he backed himself. He has been very consistent for Ireland but [Lukasz] Fabianski has the jersey at the moment.

“West Ham are going quite well so it’s not easy for Darren. He did play three Carabao Cup matches which kept him really sharp but they are out of that competition now.

It is an issue but Darren is our No 1 and that is not changing. But going forward ideally playing matches would be preferable for him.

The friendly with England on Thursday could give Kenny the most scope to tinker and give Kelleher his chance, with Kenny also insisting he has full faith in Shane Duffy who arrived into camp last evening having been dropped by Neil Lennon following a rough month at Celtic.

Enda Stevens had a knock on his knee assessed and misses out on the Wembley clash as a precaution - he is replaced in the squad by Cyrus Christie.

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