Patience and hard work finally pay off for Eunan O’Kane

The Bournemouth midfielder replaced David Meyler to make his international debut

Eunan O’Kane of the Republic of Ireland misses a late chance during the international Euro 2016 warm-up match against Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium. Photo:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Eunan O’Kane of the Republic of Ireland misses a late chance during the international Euro 2016 warm-up match against Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

They say good things come to those who wait. For Eunan O’Kane that wait was a frustrating one made up of sitting on the bench watching others get their chance ahead of him.

But, last night against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road, the 25-year-old was finally given the green light by Martin O’Neill to make his international debut.

Replacing David Meyler after 63 minutes the Bournemouth midfielder slotted in comfortably alongside fellow substitute James McCarthy.

So, how was a first taste of international action for the man from Derry?

“Tough,” is his immediate reaction. “We didn’t see much of the ball in the second half and it was a dogged performance to get the result. Coming into a game like that I would like to have seen more of the ball but we had to grind out the result and we’ve come away with the win which is the most important thing.”

Make no mistake about it, O’Kane has had to work for this. After beginning his career at Everton’s academy he struggled and soon moved back to Northern Ireland where he joined Coleraine.

There he caught the eye of Torquay United, making the switch back to England in 2010. Two years and 106 appearances later he would sign for Bournemouth, then in League One. O’Kane would play an integral part in the Cherries rise through the Football League, eventually making it to the bright lights of the Premier League last May.

His international career has seen him switch allegiances from Northern Ireland at Under-21 level, with that switch finally paying off last night. However, he admits that the novelty of being around the squad can begin to decrease if you’re not playing.

“I have been in and around it and it’s tough to come here – you enjoy the experience of training – but ultimately you want to play so to get over that hurdle and get that first cap is a relief,” he says.

Making your international debut just three months before a major championship is probably not ideal as debuts go and the 25-year-old is very much aware that his Irish career goals are more long-term at the moment.

“I think it’s a bit of both (working towards long-term international goals and vying for a place in the squad to go to France). You come in and do as well as you can. If I end up going to France that’s going to be down to the manager and all I can do is come and perform and see where it takes me from there.”

With Harry Arter and Jeff Hendrick to come back into the squad the midfield positions are very much up for competitionand O’Kane has no illusions as to how difficult it will be for him to force his way into the squad.

“It’s a place where there’s a lot of competition. It is going to be difficult to get yourself on that plane to France when that’s the position you play but, like I said it’s not just about France, it’s a longer term thing.”

Long-term goals is the way it’s always been for O’Kane. An Irish debut would have seemed a long, long way away when he was leaving Everton to join Coleraine but he was patient, he waited, and, on a Good Friday evening in Dublin, that good thing came.

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