Eunan O’Kane has Austria and a High Court decision on his mind

Ireland midfielder hopes to feature in World Cup qualifer as well as having marriage recognised

Eunan O’Kane: admits he is unlikely to start the Austria game but hopes he has done enough after coming on against Iceland and Mexico to get another look in.  Photograph:Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Eunan O’Kane: admits he is unlikely to start the Austria game but hopes he has done enough after coming on against Iceland and Mexico to get another look in. Photograph:Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Austria looms large, of course, but it is not the only thing the clock is counting down on for Eunan O’Kane whose wedding day is fast approaching. The Leeds midfielder is hoping to feature for Ireland at some stage on Sunday. But before that he expects to discover if the High Court in Belfast has granted him and his fiancé the right to have their humanist wedding on June 22nd legally recognised. As distractions go, it’s that little bit different.

O’Kane and his partner, Laura Lacole, have had their case heard and must now await the outcome. As things stand, the humanist ceremony they plan would be recognised in the Republic but not north of the border and so they would have to have a separate civil ceremony.

As a result the pair have taken a case against the both the General Register Office and the Stormont government on the basis that the current legal situation is discriminatory. Ms Lacole is the vice-chair of Atheist NI.

“It’s been a lot of stress to organise the wedding and take on a legal case at the same time,” she said after a recent hearing. “I’m optimistic, our case is solid, and I can’t see any just reason not to be given legal recognition.

“We don’t want to take rights away from anyone else; we just want our beliefs recognised. You hold your beliefs dear, it’s how you define and interpret your life. We just want a wedding that embodies our beliefs.”

Views on life

O’Kane suggested on Thursday that he expects a decision in the case before the weekend. “I think it’s been announced that they will give a decision on Friday morning,” he said after the Irish squad trained at the Aviva stadium, “so that’s the extent of all I know.

“It’s out of our hands now. We had a very good (legal) team who put forward a very good case and it’s out of our hands. We’re in the hands of the judge.”

Asked if the issue means as much to him as it does to his partner, he said: “Of course, we’re a team. What’s important to me is important to her and vice versa. We have the same views on life and if it’s important to one of us, it’s important to both of us.”

Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane are waiting to hear if their humanist wedding will be recognised in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane are waiting to hear if their humanist wedding will be recognised in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

O’Kane admits he is unlikely to start the Austria game but hopes he has done enough after coming on against Iceland and Mexico to get another look in.

“As a player you want to play every game you’re involved in,” he says, “so of course it’s disappointing but I don’t pick the team, that’s in the manager’s hands and he does what’s best for the group.

“I think I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I think when I’ve had my opportunities, I’ve played well. I wouldn’t say I’ve set the world alight but I don’t think I’ve been poor in any of them either. Hopefully I’ll get more game time and hopefully the more I play the more I’ll impress.

“We have a very good team here, especially in my position. There is a lot of competition for places but that’s testament to the group. Everyone comes in, they turn up every time they’re asked and the lads that are playing at the minute are doing well. Obviously with where we’re sitting in the group, you can’t really argue with that.”

Struggled

He sounds as though he might put up more of a case when it comes to Leeds United where he went last year with the intention of establishing himself as a first team regular but then struggled, after an injury, to nail down his place in quite the way that he had hoped.

Through much of the time the club was going unexpectedly well under manager Gary Monk and so, once again, he was faced with the prospect of having to break into a winning side. They fell away sharply at the end and the manager ultimately left amid speculation that he had been poached by a rival.

“Obviously, towards the end of the season I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked,” says the 26-year-old. “It’s a little bit frustrating for me and that frustration is directed at him (Monk) because he is the guy picking the team.

“But it was fine, I can only compliment him for the season that we have had and the part that he had to play in it and our relationship is good. When he resigned, we exchanged messages just to say ‘thanks’ for what he has done for me and what I have done for him.”

Like everyone else at the club, he faces the uncertainty now of starting from scratch again under a new manager but simply shrugs off the situation. “If you get anxious about things changing in football then you are in the wrong game.”

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