Kevin banks on big finish
Finance man McLaughlin says Blues will benefit from finely-tuned plans
PLANNING is the compass for professional players and when Kevin McLaughlin reflects on the recent block of four games, he does so with a degree of satisfaction.
The province maintained their standing at the top of the PRO12 table, with the Ireland international taking pride in being asked to lead his home province for the first time in the home victories over Benetton Treviso and the Scarlets.
While the rest of the non-international players enjoyed a well-earned rest this week, McLaughlin made his way down to Carton House to link up with the Ireland squad; eager to make an impression.
Now 27, the Dubliner understands the value and merits of plan execution.
"With the way the season is structured, there are a series of windows of games which mean that you have to be well-prepped and focused on peaking, so in that regard we're pleased to have maintained our form over this tricky period against some quality sides," he said.
"The plan for me personally coming into this block was to try and get four 80-minute games under my belt.
"I managed to play in three (games) and at this point my body's feeling good and fresh over what will hopefully be an exciting last two or three months in the season.
"It was nice to be involved, as it always is, with the national team as well in recent weeks, so the aim is to keep working hard and hopefully take whatever opportunities might come my way."
McLaughlin reflected on the psychology of switching experienced personnel with greener players and it is clear that he has been impressed by the attitudes of those promoted from within, not just in recent weeks but over the course of the campaign.
"At the start of this period, we spoke as a group about this new group having started the journey at the start of the season and that it was up to us to keep on performing.
"I think that a lot of credit has to go to the management for having faith in the wider squad and that reflects in the way that we have tried to play. You can see the merits of managing the squad and by rotating from time to time, though this year a lot of that has been enforced due to international commitments, it has kept everyone fresh and motivated.
"We're coming into the most exciting part of the season and you won't hear many complaints from within the set-up because we have all played a part. There's a strong sense of respect which is based on each of us pushing one another in training and there's a lot expected of you, as players. But, to be honest, it's not much of a burden being a part of a panel who are all working so hard together."
He enjoyed his captaincy stint, an honour which he shared with Shane Jennings in recent weeks. "Joe and Jono (Gibbes) told me just to go out and try to lead by example and I loved the experience.
"There are pressure moments, like when to know when to kick at goal for example, but that's when you have a chat with the kicker and if he feels confident then you back him. But to lead the team, especially at home in the RDS, was a real thrill."
McLaughlin is balancing day-to-day life as a professional with a graduate diploma in financial planning, which he is completing as part of the Institute of Bankers in UCD.
When his schedule permits, he also writes an online trading blog (www.gainline.ie) alongside his provincial colleagues Leo Cullen and Eoin Reddan. Like an intense on-field workout or gym session, he derives satisfaction from looking at the finished product.
"Writing can be quite time consuming, but I get a lot of satisfaction from it and it's a nice feeling when you see your final efforts in print.
"It's funny, but when I was in school (Gonzaga College SJ in Ranelagh), English wouldn't have been my favourite subject though I have always enjoyed reading, novels especially. One of the best books that I've read recently is 'Hero Found', which tells the story of a prisoner of war escape from Vietnam. It's an incredible story."
With 16 games under his belt so far this season, McLaughlin is determined to go up a level when the league resumes with the keenly anticipated visit of the Ospreys to the RDS in a fortnight. A strong mind is helping to stimulate an active body and neither shows any sign of relenting. The story continues.