O'Keeffe confident Blues Under-23s are in good shape for Play-Off showdown

Corey O'Keeffe
Corey O'Keeffe

Blues Under-23s take on Ipswich Town Under-23s in the PDL Play-Off Semi-Finals on Tuesday (7pm).

And midfielder Corey O'Keeffe says the Development Squad is looking forward to the challenge that awaits at Portman Road.

Blues finished runners-up in PDL North, pipping Crewe Alexandra on the final day by securing the points in a must win game at Hull City.

That set up Tuesday's contest against the PDL South Champions and O'Keeffe says despite just falling short in a battle with Leeds United for the title itself, everything is still to play for.

“At first we were pushing to the win the title. Now we’re here in the Play-Offs then, yes, definitely, we feel like that confidence is thriving through the team and it’s our intention to try and win it.

“It was so neck and neck and (the league title) it just went out of our grasp. But I think we’ve done well to come second and we will hopefully take things on.

"We've got a good team. Everyone has gelled together. There’s a really good bunch of lads as well. We do things away from the training ground as a group. We do activities and that.

"It seems like everything is flowing and our performances on the pitch have been showing that.”

Ipswich, including some first teamers, defeated Blues 2-0 way back in September at Portman Road in the PDL.

O'Keeffe, who was on loan at Solihull Moors then, doesn't think that result will have a significant bearing.

“We have seen videos on them. They look decent, a mix between good young players and a few senior players.

“But it is about us, how well we turn up on the night and go and do our thing.”

And although the Under-23s are termed the Development Squad, it is about winning, says the Ireland youth international.

“Obviously it’s about improving and getting better, as we train and everything. But at the end of the day if you don’t win, there’s no point.

“Especially games like this one. There’s something on it. A game like a Play-Off semi-final is getting us ready for First Team football.

“It’s on the line. It’s not like you turn up, don’t win, never mind.”

O'Keeffe made 18 appearances for Solihull Moors during his loan spell. After returning to Blues, he has grasped the nettle and put in some strong performances for the Under-23s, in a variety of roles.

The 20-year-old has played central midfield, wide midfield, right-back and even behind the front, in that key match at Hull.

“The loan was a good experience because it was exposing me to first team football, playing when there’s something on the line.

“It could have been better had I played more and had more of a chance. But that’s how football is. I returned and I feel like I pushed on.

“At the start of the next season hopefully I can get to go away with the first team and impress. If the gaffer feels I need to go out on loan again then that’s what I will do, try and prove myself that way.

“Central midfield is where I think I have my best games. That’s the position I’d like to nail down.

“But it’s always good to have an extra string to you bow. So if I am thrown in somewhere, I’d have an experience playing there and do a job there.

“At the end of the day, I enjoy playing wherever it is. Put me in goal and I’d have a smile on my face. But if I had to pick one position, I’d pick central midfield.”

O'Keeffe made his senior Blues debut as a substitute against Newcastle United in December 2016. It seems long while ago.

He agrees: "Definitely. My first team debut I deserved it and I felt I did well.

“Since that it has been frustrating, but that's what can happen in football. You have to deal with it. But I am certain I will get back up there again.”

And O'Keeffe is convinced that the fact the Under-23s are now so closely aligned with Garry Monk's first team, it can help him - and others - ultimate goal for regular senior football.

“Under Richard Beale and Paul Robinson, the two of them together work really well.

“And mirroring the first team it feels like we are a lot closer to them than before because sometimes you felt miles away. I’ve been in teams and it felt like you were doing totally different things.

"If you’re on the same page, you’re ready then. Say if you do need to be called up, then you know what’s required because you’ve already been doing it in the 23s. I think it’s good the way that works.”