REPUBLIC of Ireland under-21s boss Jim Crawford says Gavin Kilkenny's performances for Cherries this season "blew me away".

The Dubliner enjoyed his first regular taste of first-team action this campaign, featuring 18 times under Scott Parker, having only made six appearances in previous seasons.

Kilkenny has now developed into a deeper-lying central midfield player, having played out wide and as an advanced midfielder under Eddie Howe.

The 22-year-old played a key role during the early weeks of the campaign for Cherries, but eventually lost his place when more senior players returned to fitness.

He had to be patient to wait for another chance in the side, but was granted a start on the final day of the campaign against Millwall last weekend.

Kilkenny has also been away with Ireland under-21s in recent months.

“He started the season with Bournemouth in centre-midfield and blew me away,” Crawford told Irish sports website Pundit Arena.

“Fair play to the manager who seen him playing in that role.

“He took to it so comfortably. We always played him on the right side of the midfield, and Stephen (Kenny) played him on the left in the inside channel when you would have a full-back coming in behind on an overlap.

“He could be creative, but all of a sudden you see him playing as a deep playmaker where the centre-backs are giving him the ball. He is now starting attacking phases which he has done really well.

“I watched his game against Millwall during the weekend and he was the same. He didn’t play in a while but he still came in and did the same job, very effectively.”

Crawford added: “Gavin is an excellent player.

“I would have left him out of previous squads before the last campaign and I rang him up, and told him, which he said there was no problem.

“That goes to show the strength of character that (he has). He’s gone on and is playing in Bournemouth’s first-team and came back in.

“He’s a great personality around the camp and the performances he has put in for the 21s have been excellent. Against Sweden, he had to defend diligently and he done that to the letter of the law.

“Next season in the Premier League, it will be a bit more of a challenge for him, but I got a snap-shot of his character when I left him out of the 21s (before). He is a fantastic player to have.”