McLaughlin ready for more big-game drama
Conor McLaughlin is relishing some time away from football this summer after a year that he describes as 'mad'.
Just over 12 months ago he was facing up to life as a one-cap wonder. After making his international debut away to Italy in Nigel Worthington's last match as manager back in October 2011 he hadn't made an impression on new boss Michael O'Neill.
That all changed last May when just 24 hours after a victorious Wembley appearance with Fleetwood Town in the League Two play-off final McLaughlin jumped on a flight to south America and with that his international career took off.
After making a late appearance as a substitute against Uruguay he started against Chile a few days later and with O'Neill impressed with the quality of those performances McLaughlin was in the team that got the Euro 2016 campaign off to a flying start with a win in Hungary and the Northern Ireland right back spot is now his own.
"It's been mad," said the 23-year-old Belfast man.
"I'm still buzzing just to be involved, never mind starting games. It's been a hard year and a long year, starting from Uruguay just over a year ago right through to now, so I'm looking forward to a break."
After his whirlwind year at international level McLaughlin, like everyone else connected with the Northern Ireland team, hopes that there is even more excitement over the next 12 months.
The Euro 2016 finals are the target and while there was an air of disappointment and a feeling that an opportunity was missed after Saturday night's 0-0 draw with Romania at Windsor Park, as far as McLaughlin is concerned it was a point gained - and a point proved too.
"Everyone was saying in the dressing room that being disappointed with only getting a 0-0 draw against a team ranked 12th in the world shows how far we've come," he said.
"There were a few half chances which we might have taken on another day, but we can be happy enough with the overall performance.
"It's another point for us with some big games coming up."