Steve McClaren declares Ireland's Richard Keogh to be "the best centre-back in the Championship"

Derby County centre back has been part of a strong back line this season

Richard Keogh, Ireland

Richard Keogh ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Derby County manager Steve McClaren believes centre back Richard Keogh is the best in his position in the English Championship.

Keogh is part of an all Irish centre back pairing at the Rams this season alongside fellow Boys in Green defender Alex Pearce, when the latter is selected to start.

Ireland international Cyrus Christie also features at right back.

Derby have the joint second best defensive record in the English second tier this season alongside leaders Newcastle United, having conceded just 21 times in 27 games.

The club are vying for a promotion playoff place, sitting seventh, two points off Sheffield Wednesday who occupy the final playoff place.

Pearce has resumed the club captaincy of the club after briefly being replaced in the role following the appointment of now Swansea boss Paul Clement last season.

He kept the armband after McClaren's return for a second spell in charge at Derby.

"I said to him last week that he’s the best centre-back in the Championship," the ex-England manager told The Derby Telegraph.

"His defending has improved, and him and Alex Pearce defended the box for their lives in the win against Reading. Keogh leads by example, and did so again on Saturday."

The 30 year old defender has made more than 200 appearances for Derby since signing in 2012.

Since making his Ireland debut in 2013, Keogh has won 15 caps and was part of Martin O'Neill's squad for Euro 2016, starting the final group match against Italy and the narrow last-16 defeat to hosts France.

Keogh has twice captained Ireland in friendlies.