First team opportunities are still few and far between for Caoimhin Kelleher at Liverpool, but one ex-teammate can't foresee that lasting very long.
Everton keeper Andy Lonergan was on the books at Liverpool for the title winning 2019/20 season, when Kelleher first made an impression between the sticks.
Lonergan was signed as a fourth goalkeeper to add depth after injuries to Alisson and Adrian, but ultimately left without playing a competitive game - Kelleher got the nod ahead of the veteran.
The now-24-year-old Corkman is locked in a battle with Gavin Bazunu for the #1 jersey at international level, but Lonergan believes that Kelleher has the potential to climb leaps and bounds above the competition, judging by their single season together.
Everton goalkeeper praises Caoimhin Kelleher
Andy Lonergan, who made a single appearance for the Ireland U16s early in his career, has made his name as a journeyman, and now finds himself at Everton.
He was as recently as 2020 on the books at their city rivals Liverpool and, despite not getting any competitive game time, would have learned plenty about their other goalkeeping talent during his time at Anfield, from training with them day-in-day-out.
Lonergan was in esteemed company, with Brazilian shot stopper Alisson Becker and Spanish back up Adrian, paired with Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher. Speaking to the Yours, Mine, Away! podcast this week, Lonergan effused about his young Corkonian ex-teammate:
Caoimhin Kelleher, what a goalkeeper he is going to be. He’s the best young keeper I have ever seen. He’s by far the best young goalkeeper I have ever seen. The penalties as well, yeah, he’s brilliant, what a goalkeeper.
Despite his lack of accolades, this is hugely high praise coming from a player as experienced as Lonergan. The Everton keeper has played for some of England's biggest clubs, including Leeds, Wolves, and Fulham, and has seen countless prospects during his 20+ year career at the top. For Kelleher to be singled out as the outstanding young talent between the sticks is hugely encouraging for Irish football fans.
He has impressed on Ireland duty, when given the chance, and was particularly strong on his debut against Hungary last June. He has mostly been entrusted with cup duties by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but played a crucial role in their domestic cup double last season. Kelleher is also the only goalkeeper in Liverpool's history to win four penalty shootouts - partly by virtue of his cup responsibilities.
In a position defined by longevity, it is testament to Caoimhin Kelleher that he has made the back up slot at Liverpool his own at the age of just 24. Judging by Andy Lonergan's comments, it won't be long before he goes even further.