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First team

Dublin bragging rights at stake for Kilkennys and O'Sheas

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Friendships will be temporarily replaced by family rivalries when Gavin Kilkenny locks horns with close pal Dara O’Shea on Friday.

As the pair duel for Championship points when AFC Bournemouth take on West Brom, the competitive edge will extend to their respective fathers.

While Kilkenny and O’Shea came through the ranks at the renowned St Kevin’s Boys in Dublin, dads Alan and Sean became adversaries on the golf course.

“It’ll be a bit mad!” laughed Cherries midfielder Kilkenny. “I’ve known Dara since we were kids and we always used to be on the same side. Our dads are good mates and they play golf together.”

St Kevin’s is one of the biggest schoolboy clubs in Ireland whose graduates include Liam Brady, Robbie Brady, Damien Duff, Ian Harte and Jeff Hendrick.

Kilkenny and O’Shea are two of the most recent success stories, with both having represented Republic of Ireland at under-21 level.

Defender O’Shea, who crossed the Irish Sea to sign for the Baggies when he was 16, made 28 appearances in the Premier League last season and also has eight full caps.

Kilkenny takes up the story: “When we were at St Kevin’s, there was a big link with West Brom. Our head coach also worked for them.

“We used to go to England to watch their games and play against their academy teams. They would take players on trial and they signed a few.

“Dara was a year above me but I played up for two or three years so we played in the same team. He knows Mark Travers very well because they are the same age.

“It’s quite funny really. He’s a tough-tackling defender now but when I first played with him at St Kevin’s, he was a striker. I don’t if he would want people knowing that!

“He went to centre-back when he was about 13. You see him now and he’s as solid as a rock but he’s really good on the ball as well.

“He’s played in the Premier League and for his country. He’s really professional, he’s a good leader and a top player. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

Kilkenny, who left home at 16 to join the Cherries, was propelled into the spotlight after scoring a stunning goal in a pre-season friendly against seven-time French champions Lyon in 2019.

Until starting and turning in a man-of-the-match display against MK Dons in the Carabao Cup on Saturday, the 21-year-old had been restricted to six appearances for the first team.

“It’s different now because I’m a bit older,” he said. “That was two years ago and there were probably still question marks over my best position. I feel I’ve nailed down a position so, hopefully, I can push on this time.

“Back then, I was just starting in the under-21s. A few weeks later, Eddie Howe brought me into the first team and I was still really young.

“I’ve spent the past two years with the first team and I’m a lot more mature and I’ve got more experience even though I haven’t played much.

“I’ve developed a lot in other ways even when I haven’t been playing. People may have been wondering where I am but I’ve been improving and feel a lot more ready this time.

“The new gaffer has come in and he played a similar position to me which has been great. When he talks, you listen.

“He’s done it and played at the top level. He played with the likes of Lampard and Gerrard and played with players who done it all as well. It’s good to be learning from a top midfielder.

“It’s up to me to take my chance but you can’t think too much about it because you will put yourself under pressure. You just have to get on with it, go with the flow and take everything in your stride.”

Click through the arrows above to see a selection of pictures of Gavin Kilkenny from this season.

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