Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane has played down talk of a switch to the English Premiership despite reported interest from several top flight clubs in recent months.
However, the talented midfielder is hopeful that his outstanding displays during a memorable season for the Championship club have caught the eye of Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill.
O’Kane’s stock has risen significantly this year as he played a starring role in Eddie Howe’s side as they fell just six points short of the Championship play-off spots.
The Maiden City Academy graduate also won the ‘man of the match’ accolade in the club’s FA Cup fourth round clash against his boyhood heroes and eventual Premiership runners-up, Liverpool last January.
Those outstanding displays during his breakthrough season with the club reportedly attracted interest from Premiership sides, Aston Villa, Swansea, Norwich and Fulham.
And although, the 23 year-old Feeney lad intends on plying his trade in the Premiership at some point in the near future, he’s played down talk of a move elsewhere and is totally committed to Bournemouth.
“From my point of view when you hear of interest from other clubs it’s nice to hear because it means you’re playing well but for me personally I’m a Bournemouth player,” he said. “And until someone tells me otherwise, my main focus is with Bournemouth and I’ll be looking forward to getting back to pre-season, getting another season underway and getting back to playing every week.
“I’ve only actually been off one week but already I’m kind of desperate to get back and into a routine again.
“Obviously the interest from other clubs is nice to hear but until I actually have someone speaking to me and they tell me you can go and speak to this club or that club, then I’m still a Bournemouth player.”
The Scenic Route
O’Kane agrees that he’s taken ‘the scenic route’ on his way to making a living as a professional footballer as he’s battled his way back after failing to make the grade as a trainee at Everton.
Following successful spells at Coleraine and Torquay, he finally found his feet at Bournemouth’s Dean Court and he harbours hopes of securing Premiership football at some stage of his career.
“I’ve definitely not done it the easy way,” he said. “I’ve taken the scenic route but I think doing that has made me a better player on the pitch and possibly a better person off it as well for having to go through that disappointment.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation coming home but thankfully since then my career has progressed at a steady rate.
I’m still quite young so who knows where I can go from here. I want to play in the Premier League - that’s my ultimate goal and hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to accomplish that.”
Already capped with the Republic of Ireland U21s, O’Kane is hopeful of progressing to the senior set-up as soon as possible.
Ireland Assistant boss, Roy Keane attended Bournemouth’s recent clash with Nottingham Forest - a game where O’Kane performed well and he’s hoping he caught the Manchester United legend’s eye.
“It would be an honour to play for them (Republic of Ireland),” he said. “It’s something every young fella wants to do is go and represent at that level.
“So it was nice that he (Roy Keane) was there and that day I put on quite a good performance. “It’s definitely something I want to achieve and it’ll take me further in my career so it’s just a matter of keeping my head down keep working hard and you will be rewarded with those chances to play at that level and that’s what everyone wants to accomplish.”
Whatever happens during the course of the close-season, O’Kane is happy to reflect back on what was a fantastic first season in the English Championship.
“We just came into the Championship and for most of our squad it was a first experience of being there. So to finish where we did and to still have a chance of getting into the play-offs with four or five games to go was beyond, I think, everybody’s dreams at the start of the season.
“I think the feeling around the place is a bit of disappointment that we didn’t get closer than what we did.
“Hopefully next year we’ll be a lot closer.
And that FA Cup clash with Liverpool will live long in his memory: “It was a very special day for me. There’s not too many boys that grow up supporting a team and at some point get to be on the pitch and play against them.
“The overall day as an experience is something that will live long in my memory.
Although it was disappointing form our point of view , for me being a Liverpool fan it was definitely a great day and something I’ll never forget.”
O’Kane was in Da Vinci’s Hotel yesterday for the launch of Maiden City Academy’s Celebrity Golf Day, sponsored by The Mellon Group. The event takes place on Friday, May 16th at The Foyle Golf centre.
More details in Friday’s ‘Journal’.