With Steven Gerrard watching on from the dugout, Liverpool u18s snatched a late 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Moss Lane last night.
Liverpool had three Irish players in their starting XI, and it would appear the trio are beginning to make quite the impression along the Mersey.
Cork's Caoimhin Kelleher, formerly of Ringmahon Rangers, lined out in goal and reportedly made a string of fine saves for his side. In front of him was commanding centre back and frequent under-18s captain Conor Masterson, the Dubliner who signed from Lucan United in 2013 and was included in Jurgen Klopp's first team squad for Liverpool's FA Cup third round with Exeter last season.
Up top was Masterson's fellow Dub Glen McAuley, who turned 17 as recently as last month. The former Crumlin United and St Joseph’s Boys striker entered his side's fixture versus arch rivals United having scored a whopping 15 goals so far this season.
All three played a crucial role in 10-man Liverpool's 2-2 draw, with McAuley adding his 16th of the season to open proceedings and Masterson and Kelleher keeping Liverpool alive after a red card for Adam Lewis.
The Liverpool Echo's report on the game contained a particularly long paragraph dedicated to the Reds u18s' Irish contingent, entitled 'Irish Spine is emerging'. Andy Kelly wrote of the various Irish-Liverpudlian links throughout the ages, and noted how the current u18s side has a distinctly 'Celtic' feel to it:
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher had another impressive display in goal, his capacity to deal with tricky low shots particualrly impressive.
United substitute Zak Dearnley looked to have the goal at his mercy when a goalmouth scramble saw the ball land at his feet with Kelleher on the floor. The keeper was up in a flash though and down again to stop a low drilled shot.
Centre-back Masterson marshalled his troops well, especially with 10-men, and dealt with numerous crosses that landed in his box.
And when Aidan Barlow’s screamer looked to have won the game late on for United, Masterson was there leading the charge forward despite the odds being stacked against them.
He won the ball at the back post to allow Luis Longstaff to bring Liverpool level, just reward for their endeavour.
And at centre forward, Glen McAuley.
His sixteenth goal of the season had given Liverpool the lead and he worked his socks off as a lone front man after the red card.
He understood the value of fighting to win his side a free kick to relieve the pressure and left everything he had on the pitch.
You wouldn’t bet against any of the three pulling on a green shirt some day.
It all sounds very promising indeed across the water, and the Echo's Andy Kelly hinted that there may well be another Liverpool u18 who, if circumstances were to align, might line out for Ireland one day:
Captain Liam Coyle put in a tremendous shift in midfield too and, while every inch a Liverpudlian, you probably don’t have to go back too far to find a fair bit of Irish blood there too.