I saw a skinny boy from Ireland… He was like ‘Okay, this might take a while’

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Caoimhín Kelleher was delighted to play his part in Liverpool’s march to the Carabao Cup final on February 27, the Wembley decider he is firmly in pole position to start.

The Cork native was once again instrumental in navigating the Reds into the encounter as his fingertip save in the second leg of last night’s semi-final from Alexander Lacazette’s free-kick deprived Arsenal of the first goal.

It served as a springboard for Jurgen Klopp’s side to press on and score twice through Diogo Jota to seal a 2-0 triumph and set up the showdown with Chelsea.

It was telling that Klopp chose Kelleher between the positions while Alisson’s first choice was fit and available.

Kelleher hadn’t made a mistake playing four games in a row during the Brazilian’s enforced Covid-19 absence recently, including two saves in the shootout win over Leicester City in the Carabao quarter-final.

“There are a few weeks left before the final, I will continue to train hard, see what happens and see if I get the green light,” the 23-year-old told liverpoolfc.com.

“It’s another final, a final is a final, obviously we’re buzzing, another cup for this club, this club wants to win trophies, it’s another chance to win and a trophy so we’re going to go there and give everything we have.

“It’s a great feeling, everyone is buzzing in the locker room, 2-0 away is a great result and we are all buzzing and looking forward to Wembley.

“In the first half we played good football and scored the goal, it was a great goal from the Jots, in the second half they came a bit more towards us, as we thought, we had to defend, and then the Jots got another goal which sort of settled it for us.

“I saw Jots’ reaction as soon as he scored, I thought maybe he wouldn’t be in, you can tell from the players, I just looked at the bench and they were celebrating too, so I was happy when I saw this.”

Commenting on his own contribution to the Emirates, including that crucial save, he said: “I’m really happy when I can to make saves to keep the team going and give us a chance, it was an important moment to keep us 0-0 and then Jots will score for us, so I was really happy to make that save.”

Klopp spoke about Kelleher, who started his career at Ringmahon Rangers as an outfield player, afterwards.

He said: “He’s my number two at Liverpool, I don’t think you can be rated higher considering his age. We are more than happy with him, absolutely.

“There are a lot of steps to go through. Since I first came here, I have seen a skinny boy from Ireland, standing tall for a purpose. It was like ‘Okay, this might take a while…’

“Since then he’s made some incredible strides, and now he’s definitely a top-notch keeper. He’s calm like you can’t believe, he’s good with the ball and he makes amazing saves.

“What can you do better at this age than to learn from the best goalkeeper in the world? All of those things are really good for him and we’re more than happy to have him.

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