MANAGER Eddie Howe hailed the intelligence of Eunan O’Kane and said Cherries were reaping the benefits of the midfielder’s astute tactical mind.

The 23-year-old has emerged as a stand-out performer in recent weeks by producing a string of impressive displays in a role in front of the Cherries defence.

Deployed as a deeper-lying playmaker, O’Kane caught the eye when helping Cherries register back-to-back away wins over Reading and Sheffield Wednesday.

O’Kane operated in a similar position during his time as a trainee at Everton before being utilised in a more advanced midfield area with Torquay United.

After joining Cherries from Torquay in July 2012, O’Kane made 37 league appearances during the club’s promotion campaign and has since established himself as a first-team regular in the Championship this term.

Discussing O’Kane’s latest assignment, Howe told the Daily Echo: “In speaking to Eunan, he would say that is where he feels most comfortable.

“He played that role at Everton as a young lad coming through. He played next to Jack Rodwell and certainly enjoyed that role.

“At Torquay, he played slightly higher and, with us, we have tinkered with both. The beauty of Eunan is that he is very adaptable.

“He can play an attacking role and a defensive role because his understanding of the game is very good.

“He is one of the most intelligent players I have here in this squad in terms of his tactical understanding and that is a real benefit for us.

“He has got many strings to his bow. He is defensively good, everyone can see how technically good he is on the ball and he is someone who has improved as the season has gone on. I am really pleased with him.”

When asked about O’Kane’s tactical nous, Howe added: “It is impressive. That is what separates Eunan from a lot of players and gives him an opportunity to go even further in the game.

“Eunan is one of the players who fits our philosophy perfectly and he is one of our drivers in midfield who really understands what we are trying to implement. He is also very brave on the ball, which is key in that position. I think he is progressing very well.”