Institute's Brendan McLaughlin wins September player of the month prize
Institute striker Brendan McLaughlin has capped off a memorable few weeks by celebrating the birth of his first son, Milo, and securing the ‘Lough 41 Championship Player of the Month’ award for September.
Benny, as he’s known to his team-mates, enjoyed a fantastic month on and off the field, scoring four goals in five games for ’Stute. Indeed, only hours after his wife Sevenagh gave birth to little Milo, Benny was netting the all important winner at Queen’s University and admits it’s been a month he’ll never forget.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better month,” he laughed, “Everything is perfect, we have a wee baby boy called Milo and everything is going good. The sleepless nights have started already but I’m just delighted everything went well.
“Milo is my good luck charm at the minute. My wife is keeping well. She just hates me going to football but sure every woman hates that,” he joked.
“Football is my time away but the minute I’m home I’m straight back at it. I got home at 12.30pm on Tuesday night and started to get the feeds ready.”
The 27-year-old said new boss Brian Donaghey has got the Waterside men back playing football and enjoying the beautiful game again. McLaughlin is pleased to be back amongst the goals but he’s under no illusions that everyone must maintain the hard work if they are to continue to move up the Lough 41 Championship table.
“I am enjoying things at the minute and the last month was good,” he added. “We had a good win at the start of September and are actually now playing a lot better than what we were doing at the start of the season.
“It’s nice to be scoring the goals but I think the whole team is enjoying their football, I certainly am this season.
“Brian has got us back to the basics, got us back playing football whereas before we didn’t play that much football Now we have a structure in place. All the boys have bought into the way he wants us to play and the formation suits us well.
“We have also got boys back from injury, although we are still waiting on Burkey (Cormac Burke) and (Aaron) McGurk to come back but hopefully they can help us when they’re back.”
After joining from Cockhill Celtic in 2019, the Manchester United supporter initially struggled to find his feet in the top flight but this season he has really hit his stride.
During September McLaughlin scored four goals in five games and has started October with another goal in last Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Knockbreda so he hopes his sky high confidence can continue.
McLaughlin has netted some crucial goals in that run, starting the month by grabbing the winner on 88 minutes against Dundela, before firing home the winning goal in the 95th minute against Ards and securing the points with another 20 yard strike which saw off bottom side Queen’s.
“My confidence now is sky high whereas a year or two ago I didn’t play much and my confidence was all over the place,” he explained, “I was in and out of the team . I played 15 or 20 minutes in a few games, but since Brian has come in he has told me and all the boys to just go out and play and that has suited me a lot more as I’m able to play with a bit more freedom.
“I’m now taking more chances which is part of my game and I am enjoying the football that we are playing. My confidence is sky high, especially when you are scoring goals and hopefully that continues.”
The Donegal man feels there isn’t much between most sides in the Championship, an argument backed up by results last weekend when bottom side Queen’s drew 0-0 at fourth placed Loughgall while second from bottom Dundela secured their first victory of the season against fellow Belfast club Harland & Wolff Welders thanks to an impressive 4-0 victory at Wilgar Park.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Drumahoe side travel to promotion hopefuls Ballinamallard United and McLaughlin believes they can get a positive result to put Tuesday night’s Eventsec North West Senior Cup semi-final defeat at the same venue behind them.
Goals from Callum Moorehead, Reece Byrne and Joshua McIlwaine netted for United with Liam Walsh scoring for ’Stute at Ferney Park but McLaughlin hopes they can return to winning ways in what is the more important game.
“It’s a big game. On Tuesday night we had a tough enough game and played a lot of younger boys which was good to see, but we are all looking forward to Saturday’s game and hopeful that we can get the result that we want,” he said.
“The league is tight because there are teams at the bottom of the table beating teams at the top. Some of the results you do expect but some of them are unexpected. It’s a long season ahead, so hopefully we can get back to getting positive results and start to move up the table.”
’Stute’s striking pair, Burke and McGurk, both face late fitness tests to see if they are available for tomorrow’s encounter at Ferney Park.