WHEN it comes to showcasing his Championship credentials, Portman Road represents the perfect place for Conor Hourihane to start.
The Oakwell captain will have had a wry smile on his face when the opening-day fixtures announced in June handed the Reds a trip to Ipswich Town, a club where he failed to make a second-tier breakthrough before reconstructing his career at Plymouth.
Hourihane is not one to harbour grudges, but he does profess to having a steely desire to prove himself in the Championship, second time around.
That desire is likely to be replicated in several of Barnsley’s other key players.
They include Sam Winnall – who failed to make the grade earlier in his career at Wolves – Adam Hammill and Alfie Mawson, all seeking to show that they belong at this level.
Hourihane believes that motivation will represent a useful tool in the months ahead for the Reds during their return to this level.
On returning to Ipswich first up, Hourihane said: “It is funny how it works out, being a previous player.
“I was 19 when I was there and very young and not ready to make that grade and it has taken a few years to get back up.
“There are a few of us in the changing room who had to go down to League Two and League One to get to the Championship and there is a fuel and a desire not to be a ‘one-season wonder’ after last season and secure our spots in the Championship.
“That is a challenge I am looking forward to.”
Speaking of desire, the incentive of earning a full call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad if he carries on from where he left off in an exemplary second half of 2015-16 is another added motivation for Hourihane.
The Cork-born midfielder is the first to admit that establishing himself at this level is very much his priority, although securing the Ireland call is something that he would dearly cherish somewhere down the line.
He added: “It is something that is in the back of my mind. But first and foremost, I have to play well for Barnsley to get into consideration for that.
“Playing as consistently good as I can will only help that and we will have to wait and see. Playing good for Barnsley is the bread and butter and then the bigger picture could come.
“People spoke about me (with Ireland) last year, but I ultimately knew you had to be in the Championship to have a sniff of it and it is my chance now to shine.”