On Wednesday afternoon, Irish U21 manager Stephen Kenny named his 22-man squad ahead of their upcoming European Qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden.
The exciting squad contained a handful of players well known to Kenny’s side including the likes of Dara O’Shea, Caoimhin Kelleher and captain Jayson Molumby as well as some new but familiar faces like Nathan Collins and Michael Obafemi.
Another player who received his first call-up at U21 level was Bournemouth midfielder Gavin Kilkenny.
Although from the same generation of promise that has spawned the likes of Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly, 19-year-old Kilkenny is a player who had largely operated under the radar up until this summer.
A product of the famed St Kevin’s Boys academy, Kilkenny joined Bournemouth in 2016 and despite featuring frequently at underage level for Ireland and impressing for the Cherries’ U21 side, he was a player who didn’t quite get the hype he perhaps deserved.
Eddie Howe included him in Bournemouth’s pre-season tour and given his chance, the midfielder shone, with a goal against French giants Lyon in their final game before the campaign, the highlight of his summer burst onto the scene.
The Bournemouth boss conceded that he couldn’t promise him game time ahead of the upcoming season, but he outlined that his performances in the summer will have given him a great chance of being involved in the new campaign.
“I can’t make any promises to him now, but what I can say is that if he continues along the same way that he’s played in pre-season, then he’ll have a very good chance of being involved this season,” Howe said.
“He’s carried on really from his form all throughout pre-season, where he’s done very, very well technically.
“He’s done some excellent things with the ball, showed a real game intelligence and took his goal really well.
Kilkenny didn’t feature in the first three Premier League games of the season for Bournemouth. However, he now finds himself in with a fantastic chance of getting his maiden taste of first-team action.
Bournemouth face League Two side Forest Green on Wednesday evening in the League Cup, with Kilkenny set to be included in the squad – another milestone, on top of his first U21 international call-up.
An intelligent attacking midfielder who can occupy several different positions, Kilkenny was singled out for praise by Ireland under-21 manager Kenny during his squad announcement with the coach confirming to Pundit Arena on Wednesday afternoon that he would be involved in the Bournemouth squad.
“He’ll be involved with Bournemouth tonight. He’s a very good footballer and an intelligent player. He can play in wide areas and central areas of the midfield.
“It’s the first time he’ll be involved with us but he impressed with Bournemouth in pre-season and did very very well. Subsequently he’s in the Bournemouth matchday squad tonight and could be involved so that’s great for him.”
With Kenny missing the influential Connor Ronan as his number 10, Kilkenny could be handed yet another chance to impress, this time at international level.
His technical ability and creativity make him a strong candidate to replace Ronan and is yet another example of an attacking player who could benefit massively under Kenny’s tutelage.
His Bournemouth teammate Nathan Aké referred to him as “Iniesta” in the background of one of his post-match interviews, such is the apparent esteem at which he is held at the club.
Last night we saw the likes of Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah and Michael Obafemi all impress for their respective clubs and Wednesday night could well be Gavin Kilkenny’s turn at the limelight
It’s not something he’s been afforded all too often in his young career, but it’s something he’ll have to get used to – the club even featured him on the matchday programme.
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) August 27, 2019
If Kilkenny continues to impress he could be a vital for both Ireland and Bournemouth perhaps sooner than most would have expected.