McLaughlin's season has been extended after call up to Northern Ireland squad
Nearly three years after making his international debut at the Stadio Olympico, Conor McLaughlin will again get the chance to pull on the green jersey of Northern Ireland when he links up with the squad following the Play-Off final on Monday.
On that October evening in Italy, the young right back found himself going head-to-head with Andrea Pirlo on his debut.
This time, the 22-year-old will find himself up against some of the best attackers in the world. He faces the prospect of going up against the likes of Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani amongst others when he flies out to South America to link up with Michael O’Neill’s squad.
Northern Ireland will face Uruguay (May 30) and Chile (June 06) during their week-long stay in South America, as both of Ireland’s opposition prepare for the impending World Cup in Brazil.
McLaughlin has enjoyed his best season to date at Highbury Stadium since joining two years ago from Preston North End. The Belfast-born defender has made 46 appearances in all competitions, and in the process, saw his form recognised with three accolades at the end-of-season awards night.
“When I got the call I couldn’t believe it, but I had to get my head quickly back on the job at hand on Monday,” McLaughlin told the club’s official website.
“You want to play against the best players in the world and not many people get that opportunity. I was really grateful to be able to play in those sorts of games.
“I can’t wait for it. There has been a lot of build up this week and I can’t wait for game day really and to concentrate on putting a performance in and, hopefully, getting promoted.
“It’s going to be an exciting few weeks, but first and foremost, there’s a job to be done on Monday and hopefully we can get the club to League 1.”
Reflecting on his last appearance in a European Championship 2012 qualifier against Italy, McLaughlin says he has been waiting to ‘relish’ the feeling of international football again.
“I got 15-20 minutes against Italy for my first cap. It was good to play against their stars and I came away from that feeling proud.
“I was playing centre midfield and I played against him (Pirlo) and that was quite an experience.
“It is been a few years since that, but I have learnt that I have to relish those moments and take them all in.”
The call-up also made it a memorable few days in McLaughlin family house-fold. Conor’s brother, Ryan, is a Liverpool youngster looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps and make his international debut.
Ryan, who is also a right back by trade, spent the end of the season on loan at Barnsley and Conor, jokingly; said there could be some brotherly rivalry for the right-back berth.
“He’s (Ryan McLaughlin) in there as well. Both of us are primarily right backs, but he has played a few different positions, as have I. We will fight over it if we have too!”