THE defection of James McClean to Sunderland has certainly boosted the tenacity of Derry City winger, Stephen McLaughin who, for many, was the stand-out player against Sligo on Tuesday night.
And for the former Finn Harps’ youngster, McClean’s transfer has made him all the more determined to cement his place in the Derry City first team.
Having netted two superb goals and, of course, that vital fifth penalty which paid for Derry’s ticket to challenge for a 10th League Cup title, the support of the Inishowen man’s parents has played no small part in his recent rise to prominence.
“My parents have been coming week in, week out to support me so I felt I owed them that performance,” said Stephen after Tuesday night’s game.
“Members of my family were in the stand, so it was nice to run over to them when I scored. I was happy with my performance and I was delighted to have scored my first goal at the Brandywell,” he added.
Describing the victory as an ‘outstanding team effort,’ McLaughlin held the view that Derry wanted to win much more that Sligo Rovers.
“The boys battled and worked extremely hard all over the pitch, I thought everyone was outstanding and I think we wanted it more than they did. Even when we went down to 10 men, they didn’t create that many chances against us except for the goal.”
Delighted to have netted his first goal on home soil since joining the club, it was a special moment for him.
“That was my first goal at the Brandywell and it was important for me, it was a special goal. If I can start games well, I think it lifts my confidence and I feel there’s no stopping me then.
“In the last couple of weeks in training I’ve been working on getting to the front post and for the first goal it was a delightful ball in by Ruairi Harkin and I just went for it and, thankfully, it went in.
“For the second one, my first touch set me up perfectly and I knew I was going to have a go. It was a great feeling to see the ball going into the net,” he smiled.
“The players are all in training together every day, so we know each other well. I wasn’t surprised that we were able to play so well despite the number of changes that were made. When we went down to 10 men we knew mentally that we had to work harder to compensate and everyone lifted their workrate in extra time.
“We pulled together and worked hard up and down the pitch. When we did have the ball we tried to push on and go at them.”
The teenager has come a long way: “A few years ago, when I was playing with Clonmany Shamrocks, I never dreamed that I would be playing at this level and talking about playing in a League Cup Final next month.
“It just goes to show that hard work can bring you a long way in a short period of time.”
And looking to the future, he had no doubt what he wanted: “When James |(McClean) left, I decided that I wanted to make that position my own. Hopefully I’m making progress on that front. I want to play in that position not just this season, for next year as well,” he concluded.