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Ireland can bank on McLaughlin

By David Kelly

When every single bank in the western world was looking for a bail-out last year, Ireland's 1024th and newest international cap, blind-side flanker Kevin McLaughlin, was the only person in the western world desperately seeking a bank to bail him out.

That the bank was Anglo-Irish showed how desperate he had become.

With Rocky Elsom destroying European packs like some out-sized cartoon hero, one injury too many had forced the choir-singing, Gonzaga alumnus to consider his very future in the game.

At just 24, and a mere five starts in three seasons, injuries had seemingly scuppered his dream to become a professional rugby player. In his first season in the Leinster Academy he tore his cruciate ligament and was out for six months.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika put it to him as only the straight-talking Aussie can. Sneeze and you're history. The injuries stopped. Unfortunately for him, Rocky didn't.

“Last season was a tough one for me,” confides a player who has taken longer than others — 25 years — to come of age.

“With Rocky there, I was not getting any game time. I definitely had to assess where I was at with rugby, but I wasn't helped by constant injuries.

“I suppose it makes me really appreciate this season all the more, in that I had couple of years of struggling to make a breakthrough and struggling to play consistently for my province. Now I've come through, I'm playing and I'm delighted to get some rewards. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it regardless.”

Singing bass with the RTE Philharmonic Choir under the leadership of Gerry Murphy, the Gonzaga teacher who first instilled in him a love for music, helped to clear his head as he pondered a possible future without sport.

He was doing commerce in UCD, a day here with Irishjobs.ie, a day there doing some work experience with Anglo-Irish Bank. But he knew he had to commit one way or the other.

“Last season I was looking at careers outside of rugby,” he said.

“I definitely had second thoughts. I was half thinking to myself ‘was I up to it physically? Was I ever going to make the breakthrough?'

“ So I definitely had doubts but obviously I'm delighted I stuck with it now.”

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