When Championship teams secure promotion to the Premier League there are usually players deemed not ready for the level and that has been no different at Bournemouth this term.
Among the few that departed the Vitality Stadium this summer was 22-year-old midfielder Gavin Kilkenny. The Irishman came through the Cherries academy after joining from St. Kevins Boys in 2016 and proved a useful squad player for Scott Parker last season, featuring 18 times to help in the promotion push, but was shipped out to Stoke City on loan for the 2022/23 campaign at the start of July.
Kilkenny still has three years left on his Bournemouth contract and the idea was no doubt for him to gain some first team experience away from the club this term with a view to rejoining the squad in the summer – either ahead of a second season in the Premier League or their return to the Championship.
When he has been involved, Kilkenny has given a good account of himself – averaging the joint-second most tackles (2) and joint-third most key passes per game (1) in the Stoke squad as well as boasting the third-highest pass completion rate (83.3%), as per Whoscored.
He had struggled to establish himself under former manager Michael O’Neill but though the Northern Irish coach’s departure and arrival of Alex Neil looks to have given him an opportunity to fight his way into contention, the Bournemouth loanee is now sidelined with a groin injury.
Republic of Ireland U21s boss Jim Crawford has suggested there are doubts that he will be fit enough to play ahead of the international break this month so it could be October before Kilkenny gets a chance to prove himself to the new manager.
He’ll face plenty of competition when he does return, with Lewis Baker, Josh Laurent, Will Smallbone, and Jordan Thompson among the other midfield options available to Neil.
A player of Kilkenny’s talent will back himself to turn the new manager’s head but it’s hardly been an ideal start.