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Ryan McLaughlin: Leaving Liverpool has relaunched my international career

Ryan McLaughlin once prioritised playing for Liverpool over his country, but the full-back admits resurrecting his international career motivated his Anfield exit.

The 22-year-old is back in Michael O'Neill's squad for the World Cup qualifier with Norway, two years on from the most recent of his three caps, and five years after his first international call-up.

Big things were predicted for the 17-year-old back then. McLaughlin made his senior Liverpool debut in America against Roma at Boston's Fenway Park - with Jamie Carragher and Raheem Sterling among his team-mates, and Francesco Totti among his opponents - while the likes of James Bond actor Daniel Craig watched from the stands.

However, on the international scene, McLaughlin was something of a rogue agent himself. In 2013 he told a disbelieving O'Neill he felt he was better off on Merseyside, trying to break into Brendan Rodgers' first team.

"I was 18 and I knew I wasn't going to be playing for the Northern Ireland team - it was just to go away for the experience," McLaughlin, now with Oldham, told Press Association Sport.

"When it was international duty a lot of us young ones would have been up with the Liverpool first team and I wanted to show Brendan Rodgers how good I could be."

Fast forward four years and the logic behind McLaughlin's decision could be queried.

Injuries stopped him ever breaking into the Reds' team, while the right-back berth he had been earmarked for at international level now belongs to his brother Conor.

Yet the younger McLaughlin does not harbour regret. He was at Euro 2016 to watch his country's first game at a major tournament in three decades and knew that if he wanted to be playing on such a stage alongside his sibling, he would have to move on to secure regular football.

"It was the main reason why I left Liverpool," he added.

"I needed to be out playing first-team football for a full season. I had had loan stints (at Barnsley and Aberdeen) but I wanted 30 or 40 games in one season, and Oldham worked perfectly for me.

"(Jurgen) Klopp wasn't letting players go out on loan - though he changed his mind a couple of months later - he wanted them all in the reserve team but I was 21 at the time, I had been in the reserves for four years.

"I needed to get out.

"I loved my time at Liverpool and I got a lot of support from the people there but I'm sort of glad to be on my own pathway now and just trying to do as well as I can and stay fit."

Injuries have blighted McLaughlin throughout his career and ruptured ankle ligaments prevented him from training with O'Neill's squad in France at the Euros.

Witnessing a family member participate at such an historic event might have made it harder for some, but McLaughlin insists brotherly love was a boon.

"Seeing my brother do so well for them, it was a big thing for me, I was very happy for him," he said.

"I went out there to support and it was brilliant. It only gave me the hunger to get to another major tournament. I'm just very happy to see how well they've done and see how well my brother's done also.

"I never really thought about myself too much. Obviously I'd love to play alongside him so hopefully that can happen.

"When you actually go there into the stadium and realise it's the world stage and seeing him play in that, it was unbelievable for us as a family. I had a great time.

"I would have loved to have been in the squad but my dad was saying: 'Don't worry, your time will come'."

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