Bolton midfielder Joey O'Brien is still pinching himself as he comes to terms with the dramatic turnaround in his career.

This time a year ago O'Brien was looking to establish himself in the Bolton reserves, with one fleeting Carling Cup appearance to his credit at first-team level.

The heady world of the Barclays Premiership, European and international football was at that stage still nothing more than a dream.

Then the 19-year-old Dubliner made what he now considers a crucial loan move to Sheffield Wednesday in December, with O'Brien spending just under three months with an Owls side who went on to earn promotion to the Coca-Cola Championship.

O'Brien made his Premiership debut for Bolton in the final game of last term, featuring for the closing eight minutes of a 3-2 Reebok Stadium win over Everton after replacing El-Hadji Diouf.

That served as a prelude to what has been a stunning start to this season as O'Brien has established himself as a regular squad member, to such a degree he made his first start in the second leg of Bolton's UEFA Cup first-round tie with Lokomotiv Plovdiv in Bulgaria.

O'Brien also has seven Republic of Ireland Under-21 caps to his credit, all in the space of the last eight months. He is now one of the first names down on the team sheet for manager Don Givens.

"A year ago I was just playing reserve-team football in front of 25 people," said O'Brien.

"I can't believe what has happened to me so far this season. You always hope to get your chance, you dream about it, getting in and playing in the Premiership.

"When that chance did finally come, I was absolutely delighted."