Long-term Liverpool deal for Kelleher: what would be a successful season for the young goalkeeper?

The 22-year-old Republic of Ireland international signed a five-year contract at Anfield as reward for his promising progress.

<p>Caoimhin Kelleher has plenty of targets to hit this season at Liverpool.</p>

Caoimhin Kelleher has plenty of targets to hit this season at Liverpool.

Caoimhin Kelleher committed his future to Liverpool earlier this summer by signing a new long-term deal.

But with world class talent Alisson Becker ahead of him and two additional senior keepers on the books at Anfield, Kelleher’s opportunities could be limited.

So, with that in mind, what can be regarded as a successful 2021-22 season for the Republic of Ireland international?

At a glance: 5 key points

- Kelleher joined Liverpool from Irish side Ringmahon Rangers in 2015.

- His debut arrived in September 2019 when Liverpool beat MK Dons 2-0 in the Carabao Cup

- Prior to that, Kelleher was an unused sub when the Reds won the Champions League final in May 2019.

- Last season, he made two Premier League appearances and two European appearances.

- Kelleher’s been capped once at senior level for the Republic of Ireland.

Remain understudy to Alisson

Alisson Becker: Liverpool’s No.1 (Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that Kelleher won’t be usurping Becker between the posts any time soon.

Since the Brazilian’s £67 million arrival from Roma in 2018, the goalkeeper has been fundamental to Liverpool winning both the Champions League and Premier League, in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The first challenge for Kelleher is to remain No.2. To be regarded as a trusted understudy to one of the best keepers in the world is a compliment in itself.

With Liverpool eschewing a loan move, the young Irishman set to stay around Jurgen Klopp’s squad as they prepare to wrestle back the Premier League title from Manchester City.

Kelleher has moved ahead of veteran keeper Adrian in the Anfield pecking order, while he’s also light-years ahead of the much-maligned Loris Karius.

As we saw last season, Alisson can sustain his share of injuries, missing five league matches in total. If the 28-year-old again requires a period on the treatment table, Kelleher needs to ensure it’s him who Klopp selects to deputise.

Regular minutes in the cup

Caoimhin Kelleher makes his Liverpool debut in the Carabao Cup (Getty Images)

While Liverpool won’t plan for Kelleher to feature much, if at all, in the Premier League and Champions League, Klopp will certainly have designs on handing him cup outings.

It was the Carabao Cup in which the Cork-born goalkeeper made his Reds bow, while he’s also played twice in the FA Cup during his career.

It’s been 15 years since Liverpool last claimed the FA Cup - following a memorable penalty shootout win over West Ham United - and while domestic cup competitions might not be as high on the priority list as previously, Kopites would hardly scotch a decent run in either tournament if it didn’t compromise top-flight or European ambitions.

Should that be the case, Kelleher will have more opportunities to showcase his talent.

International ambition

Manchester City’s Gavin Bazunu provides some healthy competition at international level. (Getty)

While there’s slim chance of Kelleher being first choice on Merseyside, he does hold sound claims to become the Republic of Ireland’s regular goalkeeper.

Kelleher earned his maiden senior cap against Hungary in June, having featured regularly for the Republic at age-group level.

Regular keeper Darren Randolph missed the past two international breaks through injury and, aged 34, Eire boss Stephen Kenny may begin to start looking towards the future.

Kelleher is likely to remain around the senior squad ahead of their World Cup qualifying campaign, which restarts next month, but there is another young challenger in Eire’s ranks.

Manchester City’s Gavin Bazunu is three years younger than Kelleher yet already has four caps to his name.

The Dubliner gained first-team experience on loan at Rochdale last season, where he racked up 32 outings. He’s linked up with Portsmouth this term and been earmarked as No.1.

But on international breaks and in rare Liverpool outings, Kelleher has to display why he’s better suited for the Republic job.

Avoid becoming the next Ward

Liverpool loanie Danny Ward helped Huddersfield win promotion to the Premier League. (AFP via Getty Images)

There were so many high hopes for Danny Ward at Liverpool after he was snapped up from Wrexham for £100,000 as a teenager in 2012.

But despite encouraging loan spells at Aberdeen and Huddersfield - helping the latter achieve promotion to the Premier League in 2017 - his Liverpool career fizzled out.

Ward would play just three times for the Reds, with the likes of Karius, Simon Mignolet and even Adam Bogdan preferred instead.

After Alisson moved to Anfield, Ward’s nine-year spell was brought to an end and the Welshman was sold to Leicester for £12.5m. He’s still to play in the Premier League for the Foxes.

Kelleher simply needs to ensure he does not follow the same pathway and let his burgeoning potential go to waste.