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From Coleraine to Premier League, Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane is on rise

By Steven Beacom

Published 29/04/2015

Getting shirty: Eunan O’Kane takes on Coutinho of Liverpool
Getting shirty: Eunan O’Kane takes on Coutinho of Liverpool
Big journey: Eunan O’Kane in action for the Bannsiders

Five years ago, Eunan O'Kane was playing for Coleraine in the Irish League... now the gifted midfielder is on his way to the Premier League after Bournemouth's stunning promotion from the Championship.

The Cherries all but sealed their place in the top flight of English football for the first time in their history with Monday night's 3-0 victory over Bolton and although O'Kane wasn't playing due to injury, that didn't stop him enjoying the celebrations.

A big favourite with the Bournemouth fans, the former Northern Ireland under-21 international joined the south coast club in 2012 when they were in League One.

Both the team and player have come a long way.

Reflecting on the victory over Bolton and the promotion which will be confirmed on Saturday in the final weekend of the Championship season, O'Kane said: "What an amazing night and an amazing season. Thank you to all the fans. It's been an incredible year."

O'Kane, from Londonderry, started his career at Everton. After being released by the Toffees in 2009, and helping Northern Ireland win the Milk Cup Elite section title, he decided to come home to play for Coleraine under then manager David Platt.

O'Kane, 24, said: "I was looking for somewhere where the manager wasn't scared to throw young players in. My aim when I signed was to get my head down, work hard, get a few appearances under my belt and continue to improve as a footballer."

That he did.

Making an instant impression with the Bannsiders, it wasn't long before English clubs started to sit up and take notice. Within months of moving to the Showgrounds he was snapped up by Torquay.

He spent a couple of years there before signing for Bournemouth in 2012.

While he was at Torquay he made the controversial decision to switch his international allegiance from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

O'Kane had played at youth levels and won four under-21 caps for Northern Ireland. Criticism came his way.

At the time he stated: "Anybody that knows me or has grown up with me knows that religion has got nothing to do with it.

"I just felt my opportunity wasn't going to come playing for Northern Ireland and the Republic have come and asked me to come and join them, so it's kind of a no-brainer to take the decision to go to the country that wants you.

"I just want to play football and if the Republic are going to give me that chance then I'm prepared to take it."

O'Kane has played at under-21 level for the Republic but is still waiting for his first senior cap. Playing in the Premier League next season should certainly help on that score.

Injury has curtailed his appearances this season, with ankle ligament damage sustained against Championship table toppers Watford in January ruling him out of action for a lengthy period, but he is considered a vital squad member by Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, who handed him a three-and-a-half year contract in 2014.

O'Kane, who has made 17 appearances for the Cherries over the course of this season, is not the only Bournemouth player with Northern Ireland connections.

Lee Camp is the number two goalkeeper at the club behind former Celtic star Artur Boruc, who is on loan from Southampton.

Camp, 30, has played on 13 occasions for Howe's side, nine of which have been in the Championship, the same number of caps he won for Northern Ireland.

Qualifying through his Newtownards-born grandfather, the Derby-born Camp was a regular in Nigel Worthington's latter days as boss, but when Michael O'Neill took over he wanted Roy Carroll as his number one which angered Camp and he has not been available to Northern Ireland since.

Belfast Telegraph

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