Milngavie, Dunbartonshire born inside forward (he played either side and at centre forward) Joe O’Kane began his football career with Maryhill Juniors from where he was signed by Glasgow Celtic in June 1914. His Celtic career was interrupted by the First World War, and he enlisted in the Royal Army Regiment in 1915. After playing for Celtic in a 2-1 friendly defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Christmas Day 1914, he made his Celtic debut in the Scottish League in April 1916, scoring in a 2-0 win at Falkirk. His powerful runs through the middle of the park made him a threat to any defence although while at Parkhead he was mostly used as cover for Jimmy McColl.
His talent was in demand by other clubs, and although he was often loaned out, O’Kane still played his part in helping Celtic to the 1916 and 1917 Scottish League titles. While with Celtic O’Kane scored back-to-back hat-tricks in only his fifth and sixth games against Third Lanark and Partick Thistle, and he also scored in a 3-0 victory over Rangers in the Glasgow Cup semi final in 1916, as well as a goal in a 3-2 victory over Clyde in the Final. In total he scored 13 goals for The Bhoys in just 20 appearances but appears to have been contracted at Parkhead until 1926, as all his other clubs to that year were loan arrangements.
While at Celtic he was loaned three times to Clydebank, in 1914, 1915 and 1917, also to Clyde in 1917, and subsequently to Airdrieonians in 1918 and to Stevenston United in 1919 and 1920. He first joined Stockport County on loan in November 1920, without making their first eleven, but he clearly impressed enough for them to sign him on loan in October 1921, soon after their relegation from the Second Division to the Third Division (North), and he helped them win the League Championship and immediate promotion back to the Second Division with 12 goals in just 17 matches during 1921-22 including a debut hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Walsall in late November.
He also scored twice both home and away against Stalybridge Celtic that December and perhaps it was these matches that persuaded Stalybridge to sign him on loan in May 1922. He contributed 7 goals in 28 appearances for The Celts however the club resigned its League status at the end of the season, as it was felt that it could not attract enough support to justify a League side in spite of the fact that average attendance of 5,480 in 1922 was almost 2,000 more than neighbouring Rochdale, who played in the same Division.
He was still scoring goals, and at Scottish Second Division club Dundee United where he spent two seasons, returning 9 goals in 32 matches in season 1923-24, and then at an even better ratio the next season with 8 goals in 15 matches, before he left for Arthurlie in February 1925. He finished his career with a spell at Scottish Third Division club Helensburgh in 1926, the only move away from Celtic that was not apparently a loan.
Jimmy Brownlie (former Third Lanark goalkeeper, and a former manager & player at Dundee United) said of Joe O’Kane in a curious but not in a fully explained way in 1940, perhaps as a testament to a talent unfulfilled:
“But for certain peculiarities I fancy O’Kane might have been another Jimmy Quinn“.