LUCA Connell was disappointed not to receive an international call-up for this weekend but is now focusing on the final ten games of Barnsley’s promotion push.
The 21-year-old central midfielder has represented Republic of Ireland under 21s but his last cap was two years ago, having had to pull out of a squad in September due to injury.
He was not included in their squad for a friendly against Iceland on Sunday.
Connell told the Chronicle: “I wanted to get called up for the 21s or the first team. Everyone’s aspiration is to play international football. But there are a lot of other good players and some good players in League One as well.
“There’s always next time. One of the big goals in my career is to play for the first team of Ireland.”
Barnsley are currently fourth in League One but Connell is not focusing on what might happen across the next six weeks.
“It’s exciting and every game coming up is big. We’re looking forward to it. But none of the lads in the team are ‘big time’. They are all grounded. It’s a close-knit group. We’re all similar and most importantly we’re all enjoying it.”
They are six points off the top two with two games in hand on leaders Plymouth Argyle.
“We had the aim from day one to get up. Hopefully we can do it but, if not, just finish as high as possible. When you are in League One, you want to go up a league then, when you get there, go higher.”
The Reds have come up against a series of sides in the last month who join them in the promotion race.
“The bigger games are probably the ones we’ve done better in. We’re all on it, big crowds and they are the games you want to play in. You can get caught out in other games if your mentality is not right. The gaffer is stressing that every game is a huge game and you have to go into each of them thinking the same.”
What has Connell improved since joining the club last summer?
“The main thing is probably the mentality of just preparing right for every game, doing everything right on and off the pitch. That’s what the gaffer has drilled into us.
“Everyone is the same now.
“Maybe in pre-season we would come in and say ‘I am tired’ or ‘I am sore’. The gaffer doesn’t want negativity because it spreads so easily. We’re all positive, happy and want to be there.”
Head coach Duff said of Connell: “He’s an unbelievable kid. You can forget he’s 21. I didn’t know anything about him before he signed. But we could see quickly that he could play.
“He will definitely be a captain of a club one day with the way he carries himself, and puts demands on other people.
“He can improve some things but his performances for such a young lad in a difficult position, normally experienced players are in that position, have been seamless. He has taken on all the information we have given him. If there was a player of the year now, he would be in the top three or four.”