It’s the toughest gig in Irish international football right now, trying to get game time at senior level in the goalkeeping position with an unprecedented embarrassment of riches for Stephen Kenny, as he assesses the merits of Gavin Bazunu, Caoimhín Kelleher and Mark Travers.
ut the man next in line on the ladder, Derry City keeper Brian Maher who is first-choice with the U21 side, says a short stint training with the senior squad earlier this year has given him a taste for more of the same, despite the obvious challenge of trying to work his way into the senior panel.
Maher takes a break from the tough times his club are going through – Friday’s 2-2 draw with Finn Harps was Derry’s sixth game in a row without a win – to focus on international duty, Jim Crawford’s U21 side at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday in the first of three qualifiers.
Kenny admitted when naming his squad last week that having three elite keepers in the senior panel was a dilemma for him, and while their age profile means the road to the seniors could be blocked off for a decade, the Raheny man says he’s looking ahead to the time when he can challenge.
“I’m hoping that if I show on this level that I’m capable that chance will come,” says Maher, who was promoted from the U21s to train with the seniors for one day of the March international camp.
“The experience of being in, you want more days like that. One of the keepers was sick and the U21s were in the next day. It was a great experience, another step up and you see the levels and where you are at, even for one day you learn a lot about yourself.
“Dean Kiely was brilliant with me. He said there was no need to change anything about myself.
“There are three really, really good goalkeepers and we’re blessed to have goalkeepers as good as that, three good lads as well. For me it’s just work as hard as you can and hope you get lucky, hope you get that chance.
“I speak to them. A lot of the time we’re in camp, they’re in camp, so you nearly run into them in Abbotstown, and I’ve been in camps with them before at underage level, they are three good keepers and three good lads.”
Maher’s move to Derry, from Bray Wanderers, offered him regular first team football at Premier Division level, after a spell in the second tier which followed a stint as No. 2 with St Patrick’s Athletic, and his time up north began well.
City won six in a row at one stage, he had four clean sheets in his first eight games, but since a 4-0 win away to his former club, St Pat’s, last month the wheels have come off and Derry have not just lost their spot as league leaders but have dropped to third.
“We’re happy enough in terms of the start we had. The last few weeks have been difficult for us. I think in most games we have been very good, but in the last few weeks we haven’t met our own standards.
“Maybe the break has come at a good time and we can go again,” he says.