Kelleher to start against Qata...


Kelleher to start against Qatar but Kenny rules out wholesale changes

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has confirmed that Caoimhin Kelleher will start in goal on Tuesday night against Qatar. 

The Liverpool goalkeeper faced the media on Monday ahead of what will be just his second international cap.

But while Kenny is making a switch between the posts, he's ruled out wholesale changes as he looks to build upon Saturday's much-needed win in Azerbaijan.

Jason Knight is back in contention for Tuesday's friendly. The Derby midfielder missed the game in Baku having failed to recover in time from a fever.

But there are doubts over the fitness of Josh Cullen and Daryl Horgan, both of whom started on Saturday evening.

Cullen "jarred his knee", while Horgan is suffering with some discomfort in his ankle and will be assessed, having been replaced by Jamie McGrath at half-time against the Azeris.

As Kenny hinted last month, Kelleher has a chance to prove his mettle against Qatar. The manager has no qualms about swapping out Gavin Bazunu for the Liverpool net-minder.

"Caoimhin is a real natural goalkeeper. [A] terrific talent," Kenny said, "Obviously he played ten times for me as U21 manager so I'm well aware of his qualities.

"It's just unfortunate last season when he was injured, and that opened the door in March for Gavin Bazunu who's been terrific.

"Obviously Caoimhin made his debut at half-time in the game against Hungary, but this is his first start tomorrow - and in front of the home crowd - but he deserves it."

Kenny's described the Qatar friendly as an "interesting challenge", with the Gulf state being likened to a club team given their carbon footprint-unfriendly seventeen games since March.

Despite semi-regular brushes with the Liverpool first-team, Kelleher has had to sit back and watch Bazunu cement himself as Ireland's no.1 for most of 2021.

Kenny was asked on Monday if it's difficult to balance players' ambitions, given the bottlenecks in certain positions.

"What we're trying to do - and what we're trying to do for a while," he replied, "is create an environment, and create... going forward there's going to be real competition for places.

"I see that, because of the high numbers of players making their debut and some of the players doing well.

"Not everyone is having a great time at club level, so that opens the door and means that there [are] inconsistencies in selection when that happens sometimes.

"I think - going forward - there's going to be real, real competition for places in all areas. In goalkeeping, it just happens that Caoimhin, Mark Travers - who's having a great season with Bournemouth - and Gavin have come in.

"Gavin's been absolutely brilliant, of course, in recent matches. You want that level competition going forward, you want that for the next few years."

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Caoimhin Kelleher Daryl Horgan Gavin Bazunu Ireland Jason Knight Josh Cullen Qatar Republic Of Ireland Stephen Kenny

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