COREY O’Keeffe is hoping to establish himself as a Championship player with Barnsley in the future and still has international ambitions with the Republic of Ireland.

Although from Birmingham, the 25-year-old wing-back qualifies for the Republic of Ireland and has been involved with their youth teams up to under 21s.

He played for the under 18s, in 2016, against an England side which included his current Reds team-mate Herbie Kane as well as future full England internationals Aaron Ramsdale and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He also played in the Under 17s European Championship and appeared alongside Declan Rice, the Arsenal midfielder, who made three senior caps for Ireland before switching to England and making 50 appearances for them.

O’Keeffe told the Chronicle: “I played under 16s to 21s.

“The next step is the senior team.

“That would be massive for me.

“Luca (Connell) has been involved with Ireland as well and it would be good for us both to get back in the mix.

“I played in the Euros. England knocked us out and Herbie was in that team.

“I have played against big names who have gone on to do really big things. Hopefully I can follow in their footsteps.

“I played with Dec (Rice). He was really good. He was a centre half then and he was so composed.

“He only played for one tournament then went straight to England.

“Going away for two or three weeks at a young age, it was very serious. I was playing players who play for Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s massive. You can never take those experiences away.”

O’Keeffe was a regular on Barnsley’s right flank for most of this season but his gametime became more limited after captain Jordan Williams moved back there last month following a spell at centre-back. Despite that he has produced some of his best performances for the Reds, including the winning goal at Wycombe plus assists against Lincoln and Carlisle. He has started the two most recent matches, with skipper Williams dropped to the bench for the last one.

“It’s been my best spell for Barnsley. My most consistent football has come in the last month. I am really enjoying it.

“I am adding goals and assists which will help us in the long run.

“It’s been a little bit stop-start for me this season. But I feel like I am doing well and contributing when I am playing. As long as I keep doing that I am happy. The competition is good. You score then you’re not in the team.

“There’s no bad eggs so no one kicks up a fuss. We respect the gaffer’s choices and we’re ready whenever he needs us.”

O’Keeffe worked under Garry Monk – who will visit Oakwell today as relegation-battlers Cambridge United’s manager – when he was boss of Birmingham City in 2018 and 2019.

O’Keeffe, who came through the Blues academy and played one league game, was on the bench in an EFL Cup tie under Monk before being loaned out to non-league Solihull Moors and Macclesfield.

“He was my manager when I was just breaking through. It will be good to see him. I enjoyed working with him.

“He’s a good manager. He was very good to me. He let me train and travel with the first team. It will be a tough game. At this stage everyone is fighting for something. We have to respect every team. There are no ‘gimmes’. We have to go at it full throttle.”

O’Keeffe has the most assists of any Barnsley player this season, with six, while he has also contributed three goals from wing-back despite only starting 21 of the 38 league games and coming on in 11 others. He said: “I think that’s massive for me, getting goal and assists. That will help the team. I have been doing it this season and I want more.”

O’Keeffe has mainly battled relegation in his career but is hoping to achieve his first promotion this season, with Barnsley currently fifth – seven points off the top two with two games in hand and nine clear in the play-offs.

“We’re all excited. We all had a goal at the start of the season, it’s still there. We all firmly believe we can do it.

“We take every game as it comes.

“But that’s our goal and it’s in sight.

“Everyone up there is in and around it. There could be little slip-ups here and there. It will be an exciting end to the season. Hopefully we will be the team to go up.

“I had a little bit of a taste for the Championship when very young.

“My aim is to get back there.”