Glentoran star Kirk McLaughlin is one of several young players at The BetMcLean Oval knocking on the door of Mick McDermott’s first team.
Alongside the likes of Aaron Wightman and Harry Murphy, McLaughlin is reaping the benefits of full-time training with the East Belfast club.
The young forward struck on his debut at Glens – a BetMcLean League Cup win over Warrenpoint Town – and scored in his first start, ToalsBet.com County Antrim Shield’s 4-1 win over Ards last Tuesday night.
The 18-year-old left his hometown club Coleraine in the summer, a major disappointment for Oran Kearney, who had earmarked McLaughlin a star for the future of the Bannsiders and earned him seven first-team appearances last season.
However, McLaughlin says the allure of the professional game was just too strong to resist.
“The prospect of full-time football brought me to Glentoran,” he explains.
“Coleraine are a great club but I have always dreamed of playing football full-time since I was a little kid and Glentoran was able to offer me that.
“Being able to train every day and get paid for it is unreal.
“Glentoran is also a huge club. There is a real chance for me to win at this club, which is a big goal of mine in football.”
The Glens are one of only a few Irish League clubs to now offer young footballers the opportunity to train professionally. The County Londonderry teenager believes it’s a fantastic development for Northern Ireland players as crossing the water can be a daunting prospect.
He adds: “It’s great to be given the opportunity to play football full-time in Northern Ireland. Just a few years ago, the only way for a young footballer to train full-time was to move to England or Scotland.
“Life on the other side of the water isn’t for everyone. It can be stressful being separated from your family at such a young age and not knowing anyone there. So it’s great that young players are now having the chance to play full-time in the Irish League.
“Belfast is just an hour’s drive away for me every day. It suits me to the core.”
Despite facing stiff competition for a spot on the Glentoran starting line-up, McLaughlin believes he has what it takes to advance to the first-team.
He emphasizes: “You never know when the manager will need you.
“All I can do is work hard in training every day, play well for the second team and impress every time I get a chance to play for the first team.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/sport/glentoran-young-gun-kirk-mclaughlin-out-to-impress-after-positive-start-at-east-belfast-giants-42070102.html Glentoran young gun Kirk McLaughlin out to impress after positive start at east Belfast giants