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Sunday 4 December 2016

A long way from £60 a week for O'Kane

Eunan O'Kane
Eunan O'Kane

A good run of form in the Premier League for Bournemouth may have sealed the deal for Eunan O'Kane (pictured) as an international player in the eyes of Martin O'Neill.

But for the Derry-born midfielder, who could make his senior debut against Gibraltar on Friday at the ripe age of 25, the key in getting to this stage was a lot of hard work along the way in a career which tested his hunger as well as his ability.

Right now, O'Kane is enjoying life in the Premier League with the Cherries, and it's significant that O'Neill - like O'Kane, born in a small village in Co Derry - has called him into the squad for this double header at a time when O'Kane has worked his way into the Bournemouth first team, having missed the second half of their promotion-winning season last term due to injury.

"Fortunately for me, just prior to the squad being announced, I managed to get myself in the team at Bournemouth, played in the game an Anfield and hopefully I gave a good account of myself and put me in his plans for this trip, and moving forward as well," said O'Kane, who was previously in stand-by for the senior squad (under caretaker boss Noel King two years ago) but never made it as far as the squad itself.

But O'Kane has made it very far from the day when he was released by Everton as a teenager. Just as Keith Fahey revived his career with a spell back home, O'Kane found his feet back on Irish soil, with Coleraine.

From there he earned a move to Torquay and then on to the Cherries, a road he still remembers.

"Sixty quid a week, and forty quid appearance money," he says when asked what he was making at Coleraine.

"When you look back, leaving Everton when I did - I didn't have the option to stay - I got into men's football, so to speak, a little bit earlier than some and the experience I went through - Coleraine, Torquay and Bournemouth - have made me the person I am today.

"I wouldn't go back and change anything. It's been the right path for me. Hopefully, it will go upwards.

"I think it gives you a grounding. Some people in the press moan about young players when they sign for 40-50 grand a week at 19 or 20, and they don't value the opportunity they have, they think it's very easy.

"When you go to places like Coleraine, it's not all glitz and glam, and Torquay as well, when you wake up in the morning and you do manage to climb back up the ladder, it gives you a grounding and remind you to make the most of each day."

Six years after he left Everton, and three years on from his switch to the Republic from Northern Ireland, life's a bowl of Cherries for O'Kane.

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