McLaughlin’s goals have Derry City moving on up again
When James McClean left Derry City for Sunderland, then manager Stephen Kenny predicted that Stephen McLaughlin was more than good enough to plug that huge gap.
McClean may be preparing to mix it with Europe's best in Poland and Ukraine with the Republic of Ireland, but McLaughlin is doing all he can to try to ensure he is the next man to follow that path from the Brandywell to the big time.
His double against Finn Harps in last weekend's FAI Ford Cup tie made it six goals in the last four games and taken his tally for the season to 11.
That's far from shabby for a left winger and just the kind of statistic which will make managers across the Irish Sea take notice.
McLaughlin has at times played through the pain barrier for manager Declan Devine this season, particularly towards the end of last month when a spate on injuries led to a drastic dip in the team's form.
Devine is keen to add a couple of new players to the panel during the July transfer window and there is a little cash to spend thanks to the team's run to the Setanta Sports Cup final.
McLaughlin netted twice in the win over Bray a fortnight ago which lifted Derry back up to fourth in the table.
“We needed a good run to get back on track and I think we are genuinely back in the title race,” Devine said.
“The players have made a huge effort over the past couple of weeks and the mid-season break can't come soon enough for a lot of them.”
Tonight's game against Shelbourne at the Brandywell is the last going into the two-week break in action.
They sit just a point behind third-placed St Patrick's Athletic and are a couple adrift of second placed Shamrock Rovers.
That's quite a turnaround from earlier last month when they found themselves marooned in the bottom half of the table.
It was an unexpected defeat against Shels at Tolka Park which signalled the start of Derry's dip in form, a 1-0 reversal when striker Rory Patterson was sent off in the closing stages.
He has begun to look more like his old potent self in front of goal since returning from injury and as a result with him, McLaughlin and Patrick McEleney all back amongst the goals, Derry have looked a good deal more threatening.