MANAGER Eddie Howe hailed the way rising star Gavin Kilkenny has “attacked” his breakthrough season at Cherries and added: “I have been very pleased with his mindset.”

The boss revealed how he “saw something” in the young Dubliner during pre-season, which sparked his integration to the first-team group.

After scoring in a pre-season friendly against Lyon back in August, Kilkenny went on to make his competitive senior debut for the Dorset club against Forest Green in the Carabao Cup.

He also featured against Burton Albion in the same competition and was named on the bench for Premier League games against Tottenham, Burnley, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Kilkenny, who left his Beaumont home when he was 16 to join Cherries, earlier this season saw his form rewarded with a new long-term contract.

And Howe insisted the deal to secure the gifted midfielder’s future to Vitality Stadium showed the club’s belief in the Ireland under-21 star.

The manager told the Daily Echo: “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 has also played a key role in Cherries’ Premier League Cup campaign this season, where they are flying high with 10 points from four games in Group E.

Asked what had made him stand out, Howe replied: “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.”