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O'Kane was a central figure in promotion


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Patience paid off handsomely for Eunan O’Kane as the gifted midfielder played a starring role in AFC Bournemouth’s 2012/13 promotion campaign.

Signed by Paul Groves from Torquay in the summer of 2012, O’Kane arrived having earned a reputation as one of the hottest young properties in League Two.

A baptism of fire during the early days of his career at Dean Court saw O’Kane fail to taste victory in his first eight games as the Cherries slipped into the League One relegation zone.

And although he finally broke his duck by helping the Cherries beat Leyton Orient on the day Eddie Howe returned as manager, O’Kane then promptly lost his place.

Despite having to wait almost two months for his first league start under Howe, O’Kane soon established himself as a regular and realised his rich potential as the season progressed.

He went on to feature prominently in the club’s two years in the Championship and made 16 appearances in their first season in the Premier League.

O’Kane moved to Leeds in August 2016 before sustaining a double leg fracture during a loan spell at Luton Town in September 2018.

He has not played since breaking his tibia and fibula against Bristol Rovers but re-joined the Hatters for a second loan spell in January ahead of an anticipated comeback before the season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Recalling his debut for the Cherries during a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth at Fratton Park, O’Kane spoke to afcb.co.uk in the latest in a series of interviews for The Journey.

The Republic of Ireland international said: “A good friend of mine comes from Portsmouth and he called me as soon as the fixtures had come out to tell me the atmosphere at Fratton Park was great.

“It was a big day for me. I had moved from League Two to League One and was trying to prove myself. It was my first competitive game for the club so I wanted to impress.

“I know Bournemouth hadn’t played Portsmouth for a few years either so it was a big game for the fans. It was also the biggest crowd I had played in front of in my career.

“It was a tough game and I remember we scored late on through Lee Barnard to equalise. We were going gung-ho at that stage to try to get a goal back.

“It was a great first experience for me. It would have been better if we had won but I really enjoyed it. I was extremely impressed with the Bournemouth fans and it was a very good introduction.”

Recalling the early stages of his Cherries career, O’Kane said: “We trained at Canford School and it was a really good set-up.

“I enjoyed working with Paul Groves. He had a really intelligent mind when it came to football which I really liked.

“There was an element of pressure because there was an expectancy around the club to do well. You felt that straightaway. But I was young and had no fear. I was there to play football and was confident in my ability.

“The first couple of months were difficult. We played a lot of games where probably we should have got more.

"I don’t really know what the problem was because we had a good bunch of players and some really good people in the dressing room.

“One game which really stands out in my mind was Swindon away. We lost 4-0 and I can remember the flatness in the dressing room afterwards.

“That was just before there was a change of manager and it was strange for me because it wasn’t something I had experienced before.

“To be in an environment where things weren’t going to plan for a sustained period of time was a new territory for me.

“It was tough and it became draining to go into training when it shouldn’t be that way. In games, it carried over into the stands and everyone was flat. The club and Paul parted ways and it was a really strange situation.

“I remember that feeling of pressure in the Leyton Orient game. A new manager had been appointed and he was watching. I missed a one-on-one after about ten minutes which wasn’t ideal!

“I remember vividly the first meeting we had after Eddie and Jason had come in. It was really quick.

He introduced himself and Jason and told us what they expected and how they wanted to play.

“I remember him saying something along the lines of ‘if you do this, you’ll be fine – if you don’t, then we may have a problem’. It was as simple as that and we got to work.”

O’Kane made four substitute appearances in Howe’s first nine games in charge before he was restored to the starting line-up for an FA Cup second round clash against Carlisle, scoring in a 3-1 victory.

“Leading up to the game, Eddie spoke to me in his office,” said O’Kane. “He told me he had looked at me when I was at Torquay and decided against trying to sign me and gave me the reasons.

“He said he was going to start me against Carlisle and told me what he expected. From then on, I didn’t look back and played near enough every game for the rest of that season.

“Towards the end of the season, I was playing games and not training because I was carrying an injury and that’s why I didn’t play at Tranmere.

“That season as a whole for me was brilliant. I felt really secure in the team, I felt I was playing really well and I felt the manager had a lot of confidence in me and trusted me which was amazing.

"There’s an awful lot of good things that come to mind when you talk about that season.”

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