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McLaughlin deserves to bow out with Cup win

By Joe Kernan

There is no doubt that inter-county managers face pressure on a 24/7 basis.

Indeed, they actually live the job, even though they may fulfil full-time occupations, attend to family commitments and perhaps immerse themselves in a miscellany of other activities.

But they never can escape the debate, speculation and gossip that accompanies their role — this all goes with the territory.

A manager needs to be particularly thick-skinned and to be able to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Every mistake made by his team will be his fault, every error is magnified and sentiment, understanding and even common courtesy must take a back seat.

Given this scenario, I wonder how many GAA managers would have coped as well as Ulster rugby coach Brian McLaughlin has done since it was confirmed that he was being ‘moved sideways’.

Such a disclosure can dismantle a manager’s confidence, erode his interest in his team and perhaps persuade him to embark on a mission of self-pity.

When Ulster informed McLaughlin that he would not be in charge next year, his dignity, bearing and honesty were striking.

And rather than wallow in misery, he plunged himself into his work with even greater passion — if that were possible.

The upshot of his efforts is that Ulster are preparing for a Heineken Cup semi-final against Edinburgh, who are coached by former Ireland scrum-half Michael Bradley.

Suddenly, McLaughlin is a hero. He has helped to transform his team’s hitherto mundane season into an epic journey that could yet culminate in the promised land.

His inherent modesty and demeanour suggest that he does not harbour bitterness or resentment.

The manner in which Ulster overcame Munster last Sunday perhaps best epitomised the spirit, strength of character and desire that McLaughlin himself has demonstrated in recent weeks.

It would be poetic justice, as well as genuine sporting romance, if he were to bow out as Ulster coach clutching the Heineken Cup.

I, in common with all genuine GAA fans, wish him well in his endeavours.

Belfast Telegraph


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