Kelleher ready for centre stage

Caoimhín Kelleher insists he’s ready for his moment in the spotlight as the Corkman gears up for the biggest week of his football career.

Stephen Kenny has confirmed that Kelleher (22) will start in goal against Qatar in Dublin tonight, that friendly a surprise 25,000 sell-out, as Gavin Bazunu is rested. But Kelleher may also be called on by his club next weekend as international duty with Brazil means Alisson is almost certain to be ruled out of Saturday’s Premier League game at Watford, in what would be his first league outing since February.

“At the minute the game against Qatar is the main focus. If I do play at the weekend, it would be good to get a game in before that as well. But the main focus is Qatar,” said the Cork native. “Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity, it would be nice to get a first start for Ireland.

“I obviously back myself to do well whenever I play but I don’t think of what ifs or if I was fit or whatever, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t spend time thinking about that. If I get capped, I know what I’m capable of.”

Now established as second-choice ’keeper with Liverpool, on a five-year deal, he says he is learning by training with some of the world’s best players.

“It’s quite a high level, so for me I just want to go in every day and try to learn from that and try to better myself. It’s great to be in and around that and learn from. It means a lot to me and I’m so happy to be going in every day and learning from players with such a high quality,” he said.

Kenny will not experiment and will field a settled XI against Qatar, though Josh Cullen and Daryl Horgan are injury doubts while Jason Knight returns.

“There won’t be wholesale changes. It’s a great game for us, to obviously build on Saturday night. We want to do well, we’ve got a home crowd, a 25,000 sell-out, which for a friendly is terrific,” said Kenny, who spoke highly of his Liverpool ’keeper.

“Caoimhín is a real natural goalkeeper, he’s a terrific talent, he obviously played 10 times for me as U-21 manager so I’m obviously well aware of his qualities. He did terrifically well, he was unfortunate last season when he was injured and that opened the door in March for Gavin Bazunu who has been terrific. Obviously Caoimhín made his debut at half-time against Hungary but this is his first start, and in front of the home crowd, so he deserves it.”

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