Featured image courtesy of Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Well, those were the words of his euphoric manager, Jurgen Klopp, after the 23-year old’s storming performance against Chelsea in the Carabao cup final as Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties to lift their first domestic trophy in over a decade. The Irishman’s penalty in the shoot-out turned out to be the decisive one as his fellow number, substitute Kepa Arrizabalaga, skied his effort.
Not only that, but Caoimhin Kelleher was a key part of the Reds staying in the contest throughout the match. He made significant saves in key points of the final and looked very confident handling the ball under pressure, claiming crosses and being pinpoint with his distribution. He’s a laid-back figure who didn’t look out of place at all in that strong Liverpool side, exuding experience beyond his years and looks like a young player that continues to grow in confidence as he plays more games.
He’s been a starter in every game bar one in the Carabao cup this season (the Arsenal tie being the outlier), so his inclusion in the final certainly wasn’t a surprise as such but it was still a big call from Klopp seeing as Alisson was available. Kelleher certainly didn’t let him down. Suffice to say the praise was sky high (see what I did there) post game, from the German boss.
"It is so nice that it [his inclusion] paid off. He deserves it," Klopp said. "I am two things, a football manager and a human being and the human being won this time. He is a young boy, we ask him to do a lot, he starts playing in the competition and then we get to the final and I tell him he cannot play..."
"In professional football there should be space for sentiment. At the training centre we have a wall that all goalkeepers are on who won something and Caoimhin can go on it - that's how it should be - absolutely great" Klopp added.
It’s no stretch to say that that performance in the final will live long in the memory for the Irishman and fans alike. Although this is far from his first game between the sticks, nor the first where he has impressed this season, it’s becoming more consistent as he looks to cement his no.2 position. He’s more than achieved that.
His rise to the top is an impressive one as it’s been quite the journey for the young goalkeeper, climbing through the ranks but not in quite the conventional manner. Kelleher's ascension to top level football started nearly two decades ago, when he was a youngster at Ringmahon Rangers – a local football club based in Cork. But interestingly, he wasn't a shot stopper. The two-cap Republic of Ireland international started his footballing career outfield, banging in goals at youth-team level.
Kelleher joined Liverpool in 2015, leaving Ringmahon as a champion after winning the Cork Youth U17 Premier League in his final game for the club. Since then, he's made 17 senior appearances for the Reds and was part of the squad that lifted the Champions League in May 2019 and the Premier League title 12 months later.
And now the Carabao cup. In such few appearances he has not only made a name for himself on the pitch, but already etched his name into the annals of Liverpool history. According to Opta, Sunday’s victory over Chelsea means the Irishman has now won three shoot-outs with Liverpool, more than any other goalkeeper in the team’s history. As Klopp said, he’s now being added to infamous mural and for good reason.
It’s no wonder Klopp holds Kelleher in such high esteem as it hasn’t exactly been an easy job to find a solid number 2 to Alisson, but it seems he has finally struck gold. How long they will be able to keep the 23-year old happy as back-up is a discussion in itself but let’s just say, I don’t think we’ll be talking about Kelleher as a number two for long. He’s destined for the very top, whether that will be on Merseyside or elsewhere.