Saturday 16 December 2017

Bournemouth ready for life at the top, reveals former Ireland U21 cap Eunan O'Kane

Ex-U21 cap Eunan O'Kane and club won't lose focus

Eunan O'Kane of Bournemouth
Eunan O'Kane of Bournemouth
Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane (left) and Cardiff City's Joseph Rails (right) battle for the ball during the Pre-Season Friendly match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth

EVEN before a ball has been kicked in what will be his club’s first time to play in England’s top division, former Ireland U21 cap Eunan O’Kane knows that life in the Premier League is different.

Like that fact that people now want to give you a lot more stuff for free, just so they can hitch themselves to the glamour.

Now 25, O’Kane has seen enough of the football world to spot the bullshit and the nonsense, as he recovered from the early blow of rejection by Everton to rebuild his career, initially in the Irish League with Coleraine and then with Torquay United before he became part of the remarkable Bournemouth story.

“Yeah, it’s a very long way from Torquay to the Premier League, it really has been a whirlwind and it seems such a long time ago that I was playing for Torquay,” O’Kane told The Herald as the Cherries gear up for their first-ever Premier League game, against Aston Villa tomorrow.

“As a group here at Bournemouth we’ve gone through so much in the last three years, we’ve gone from the bottom of League One to here, it’s an incredible story and we’re all really excited about being in the Premier League.”

Slogging away in League Two led to this path for O’Kane, who was born in the Co Derry village of Feeny but opted to play for the Republic, winning U21 caps, and following team-mate Harry Arter in the senior squad is a real aim.

He knows things are different now. “Since we got promoted, the biggest change I have seen is that things are a lot easier to get when you are in the Premier League, so many people want to come and speak to you, offering cars, watches, clothes. People want to take advantage of the position you are in, the audiences you can reach in the coming year,” he says.

“It can be a bit overwhelming, if are silly and you let yourself get carried away. That’s all off the pitch, for me it’s all about on the field.

“You go to where you are on the back of the hard work you did, you need to keep that in mind.

“You have the glitz and the glam of the Premier League but there’s still a job there for us to do at the end of the day, and I don’t think us players want to just take advantage of the opportunities off the pitch, we want to do things on the field.

“I have tried to stay away from it and I’ve not got involved. I wasn’t interested in changing my car just because I am a Premier League player now, I just said a straight ‘no’ to things like that. I am focused on the football, I want to get my place in the team and then cement that before I take my eye off the ball.”

He played just 11 league games last term due to injury but is now fit and eager for a role under boss Eddie Howe, O’Kane confident the Cherries can stay up. “I think survival is realistic,” he says. “We will play the way we have done over the last few years and it will be a strength for us. There’s no reason why we can’t stay up.”

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