Bournemouth boss forecasts ‘bright future’ for Ireland U21 midfielder

BOURNEMOUTH MANAGER EDDIE Howe has given his backing to Irish youngster Gavin Kilkenny, who appears to be making a big impression at the Premier League club.

The diminutive midfielder, who turned 20 this month, was rewarded for his progress with a new long-term contract in December.

Kilkenny forced his way into the first-team picture at the Vitality Stadium by impressing during their preparations for the 2019-20 campaign.

He scored in a pre-season friendly victory over French giants Lyon, before going on to get his first taste of competitive action in Carabao Cup ties against Forest Green Rovers and Burton Albion.

Although he has yet to make his Premier League debut, the young Dubliner was included among the substitutes for games against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Burnley and Arsenal.

When speaking this week to the Bournemouth Daily Echo about Kilkenny’s contract extension, Howe said: “It’s a massive moment for him because I think it’s further evidence that we believe in him, we like him. It’s a confidence boost. He will feel like he belongs a little bit more in and around the players he is training and playing with.

“He’s done very well since pre-season really. He really has attacked it, he’s given everything, he’s grown with the challenges we have given him. I have been very pleased with his mindset. It’s hugely important when you give players opportunities that they take them.

“We saw something in him. I think we did a couple of training sessions early on in pre-season and he really stood out. From that moment we have taken him with us pretty much every day. He’s improved, kept his attitude and work ethic the same – he’s got a bright future if he can continue along that path.”

Kilkenny had his first Ireland U21 outing during the win against Armenia in Tallaght.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Kilkenny, who joined Bournemouth at 16 from St Kevin’s Boys, has also added to his international CV in recent months. His Ireland U21 debut against Armenia in September marked the first of six caps he has won for Stephen Kenny’s side. 

Warning that there’s still plenty of improvement required from Kilkenny, Howe added: “The technical level is so important and it’s probably the most difficult thing for young players to bridge because they are training with elite players.

“Sometimes the younger guys come in and it’s difficult to attain that level but I think what he’s done is shown he can handle the ball, he wants the ball and can manipulate the ball in tight areas. That’s given him a great chance.

“He can be very good. Obviously he’s got things to work on, a lot of areas of his game have to improve to be able to play in the Premier League. Is he physical enough to play in the middle of the pitch? Can he defend well enough if he is playing in wide areas?

“The Premier League is so quick and demanding athletically, he’s got to hit those levels. He’s got to do a lot of gym work to get stronger and more robust but he is going along on the right path at the moment.”

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