BARNSLEY midfielder Will Hondermarck is delighted to have been called up to the Republic of Ireland under 21s squad, the latest in a series of breakthroughs this season.

Hondemarck, who turns 21 next week, was drafted into the squad for the European Championship qualifiers against Italy on Friday and Sweden on Tuesday – both at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin.

It is the latest milestone this season for the player who, after being released by Norwich City then having a trial at non-league Notts County, joined the Reds as an under 23s player but has made five first team appearances.

After hearing of the call-up, Hondermarck told the Chronicle: “It’s the icing on the cake.

In Text Promo Image

“I didn’t expect it. I was focused on Barnsley then I got told I had been called up. It’s a bonus for all my efforts so far. They should be very good games so I am looking forward to it.”

Hondermarck was born in France to French parents but moved to Ireland as a young boy. He said: “We speak French at home but I grew up in Ireland so I have a very strong attachment to both. I have always been open to both and when Ireland came in I was more than happy to represent them. A senior call-up to Ireland is a long way down the line but it’s what I work for every day.”

Hondermarck has made four substitute appearances for the Reds and one start in which he has mainly impressed, but he has often then been left out of several squads.

“I am very pleased with how I have done for the first team. I want to get better, though.

"It’s how football goes, sometimes you are in and sometimes out. You have to understand it. I have learned a lot in the last three months, more than in a lot of years. You learn very quickly at this level.

“I came in as an under 23s player so anything I get with the first team is a bonus. It’s a good balance I can get regular competitive games for the 23s, to keep me ticking over, and some minutes for the first team.”

Although he has been used as a centre-back occasionally for the first team, Will sees himself as a central midfielder who can threaten with his dribbling and driving runs.

“I pride myself on always playing positively. I don’t always play safe, but try to get forward and hopefully do something that leads to do a goal. I need to add goals and assists to my game. I have the ability to burst forward even at Championship level but the end product will take my game to another level.”

Although Barnsley are second-bottom with two wins from 17 this season, Hondermarck says the mood is good at Oakwell.

“The squad still has a lot of players from last year and the mentality is still very strong. Results obviously aren’t going our way but no one is down or feeling sorry for themselves. We are having a little break the coming back stronger.”