Caoimhín Kelleher will make his first start for Ireland against Qatar in front of a near sell-out 25,000 crowd at the Aviva stadium on Tuesday night. The 22-year-old goalkeeper has been playing second fiddle to Gavin Bazunu, with Kelleher's first cap coming off the bench in Hungary last summer, despite establishing himself as cover behind Alisson Becker on the Liverpool bench this season.
“Hopefully I will get the opportunity tomorrow,” said Kelleher before Ireland training in Abbotstown. “Be nice to make my first start for Ireland in front of a home crowd as well.
“I’ve a good few family coming up to watch the game,” said the Cork native, “and having it in front of the home fans for my first start will be a special and proud moment for me.”
On the coming decade competing with 19-year-old Bazunu, Kelleher said: “Of course it is going to be difficult, competing at national team level, but we have three good goalkeepers. Myself, Mark [Travers] and Gavin all competing for one spot is healthy competition, we all get on with each other. I like it, I like competition, it makes you better.”
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is expected to make a number of changes from the 3-0 win in Azerbaijan. Josh Cullen (jarred knee) and Daryl Horgan (ankle) are struggling to be fit but Derby County midfielder Jason Knight has recovered from a fever and could to slot into a 3-4-2-1 system.
“There won’t be wholesale changes but there will be some,” said Kenny. “It is a great game for us, Qatar are like a club team in that they have played 17 games since March. It is an interesting challenge for us and one we are delighted to play in front of a 25,000 sell-out crowd.
“We want our supporters to experience us winning at home.”