After breaking into Dundalk’s starting XI late last season, Ryan O’Kane became the first local-born player to score a league goal for the club in almost a decade. The 19-year-old found the net after seven consecutive starts, a stretch that speaks to the strong impression made following his initial breakthrough. As the 2023 LOI Premier Division season commences, O’Kane is capable of using this platform to establish himself as one of the division’s brightest prospects.
Despite a diminutive frame, the left winger possesses some eye-catching physical qualities. These attributes, namely his top speed, acceleration and agility, currently enable aspects of his role as a touchline-hugging winger in Dundalk’s tactical setup. Rapid acceleration, paired with sharp and precise changes of direction, allow O’Kane to be effective in the take-on scenarios that are central to his role.
In 1v1s, O’Kane tends to stand his opponent up. Comfortable attacking either side of a defender, he capably weaponises their momentum, often using multiple feints to create exit opportunities. Despite demonstrating reasonable ball manipulation and dribbling ability, O’Kane could still stand to be more technically proficient in these instances. Prone to mistiming exits, there’s an over-reliance on his physical traits to create separation.
Additionally, his capacity to threaten from wide areas would be elevated by improved body shape when receiving. Despite possessing the ability to receive with both feet, O’Kane is currently reluctant to receive at angles that allow for seamless transitions into his next action. He frequently opts to receive square, even when found in space. This habit affects the fluidity of his play, undermining a valuable part of his skillset: opportunities to exploit space, especially in 1v1 scenarios, can be overlooked .
When O’Kane does create separation from his opponent, there’s a decent range of end product. He’s naturally right-footed, but balances a preference to cut inside with darts towards the byline. This provides access to numerous angles where O’Kane has demonstrated encouraging crossing ability from either foot; typically sending in low or well-shaped floated crosses. He also fashions chances to shoot off the dribble, shifting inside to lace shots towards the far post.
Moving forward, he would benefit from a greater variety of movement. O’Kane’s use of pockets between the lines, or out-to-in runs that target space beyond the backline, is too infrequent. These movements would highlight strengths: he’s shown flashes of neat link-play, as well as instances where his speed has allowed him to receive in dangerous areas behind the opposition defence. There are, however, shortcomings that may limit this upside, most notably an inconsistent first touch, which is particularly noticeable when he runs onto the ball.
With only a handful senior starts, there is obviously scope for O’Kane to iron out the flaws in his game and grow into the league. Refining the technical elements that can limit his best physical traits may well see him become a difference maker at LOI level, especially if he can play more assertively. O’Kane’s priority in 2023 should be to firmly establish himself within Dundalk’s starting XI. If he achieves this, he’d be well placed for a move to a League One side that prioritises a transitional style of play.