It’s safe to say, the majority of young boys in Ireland grow up dreaming about the same three things. As a toddler, to be a bus driver. As a young boy, a pilot. As an older boy, a professional athlete.
In November 1998, a boy was born who was no different from that template. As a footballer he would even go on to record goal scoring tallies of 20 to 30 goals per season for his boyhood club. So, it would come as a surprise that when signing his first professional contract, he would sign as a goalkeeper!
We are of course talking about the Irish footballing prodigy that is Caoimhin Kelleher. At the bright age of 23, Caoimhin already has 4 major winners medals in his collection: Carabao Cup (2022), Premier League (2020), UEFA Super C up (2019) and Champions League (2019). Caoimhin has even made a number of appearances for the Irish national team. To see how far Caoimhin has come, we need to travel back to Cork, over ten years ago.
An academy team in Cork, Ringmahon Rangers knew they had a star on their hands with Caoimhin even at a young age. He secured the player of the year award with the under 10’s team as a striker scoring between 20 and 30 goals per season, so how does a star striker venture back to the opposite end of the pitch to become a Premier League goalkeeper?
It all started with a simple choice, but not by Caoimhin. By his teammate, Robbie who was the team goalkeeper at the time. Robbie was younger than everyone else on the team and found the schedule of training and pl aying matches too tough and left the team. Caoimhin’s dad, Ray saw this as an opportunity for his son to make a name for himself as the team goalkeeper and had a conversation with the coach. The coach has since said his reaction to the request. “Look, R ay, we’re not exactly sure this is the right decision, but I’ll go with it. I’ll throw him in and see how he performs.” He makes an error, and the team lose 1-0.
This set back only lead Caoimhin to try harder and strive for perfection. Great game after great game, Caoimhin found himself on the radar of several professional team’s scouts. Blackburn, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Manchester City all had their eyes set on Caoimhin. Each of those teams lost out to Liverpool. Caoimhin, couldn’t leave for England immediately, he had to wait until he was 16, so he played out the rest of the season. The last game of the season, Ringmahon losing 1 – 0. A last – minute corner, Caoimhin takes the chance and travels up to the opposition box and scrambles in a late equaliser. Finishing his Ringmahon Rangers career in style.
It would take four years of hard work, determination and great performances for the Liverpool youth teams to make his senior debut , keeping a clean sheet in an EFL cup match vs MK Dons. Another huge millstone came the next season . With a n injury to Alisson Becker, Liverpool’s regular first choice goal keeper, Kelleher made his debut in the Champions League with another clean sheet against the Dutch giants, Ajax. This season Caoimhin received a Champion’s League winners medal for being in the team against ‘Spurs in the final. Strong performances in that season, lead him to be promoted to second choice, ahead of Adrian.
Moving forward to 2021, as a result of more great performances between the Liverpool posts , Caoimhin was rewarded with a long term contract extension with Liverpool as well as a call up and debut to the Irish national team vs Hungary.
We can safely say, Caoimhin has already had an amazing start to his career. Jurgen Klopp has even thanked Ringmahon Rangers for Caoimhin’s talents by sending the club a handwritten letter along with Caoimhin’s match jersey from the EFL cup final, signed for good measure! With Caoimhin still being a young goalkeeper, he still could have almost twenty years left of playing time left in him if the legendary goalkeepers of Buff on and Oliver Kahn are anything to go by.