DONEGAL lad Stephen McLaughlin has helped his Derry City team-mates make it to Lansdowne Road for next month's FAI Cup final -- and the winger wants to follow the example of his former team-mate James McClean by making a big stir across the water.
McLaughlin, 22, has emerged as a real talent since he joined Derry from Finn Harps in 2010, and took his tally of goals for the season to 15 with a stunning double against Shelbourne in Wednesday's FAI Cup semi-final replay, a 3-0 win for Derry which sets up a November 4 meeting with St Patrick's Athletic at Lansdowne Road.
From Clonmany in Donegal, McLaughlin has already played at the venue -- alongside current Sunderland star McClean for the Airtricity League XI against Celtic last year -- and he expects the Sunderland star to make it over to Dublin for the final.
"James came over to see the drawn game with Shels in the semi-final last Sunday so I'm sure he'll be there to support us against Pat's, any chance he gets he is over to the Brandywell at our games," McLaughlin told the Herald.
"What James has done with Sunderland and Ireland has given me massive hope, watching him doing it here in the League of Ireland every week -- when I was on the bench as James was in the team ahead of me -- makes me think that I can do that as well.
"It's about getting a bit of luck, it's about someone liking you the way Martin O'Neill took a shine to James and maybe I can get a break and get away as well. I am very happy here with Derry and we can have a really good finish to the season but I would love the chance to play at a high level in England like James," added McLaughlin, who is the latest Donegal sportsman to celebrate a big win in Dublin.
"There's such a buzz in Donegal at the minute with what Jim McGuinness and the boys did in Croke Park last month. We have a good Donegal contingent in the Derry side. You have myself from Clonmany, Barry McNamee from Ramelton, Mark Farren as well so we're all on a high with what Donegal did and what we have done with City. It's just great to be in the final, it means the season goes on for another week but we'll live with that," added McLaughlin.
"Wednesday was a great night for us, to know that in just a couple of weeks' time you'll be playing in a big final at the national team's stadium. I played against Celtic there last year, I got around 20 minutes or so as a sub and it was amazing to play on that pitch so to go back there for a competitive game with my club is amazing."
McLaughlin earned his man of the match award for Wednesday's game as it was his two goals, one in each half, which set up the win for City, on what could have been a tough night for the Ulster side.
"It was a hard game against Shels and we had to work for the win," he says. "I know I got the man of the match trophy but our keeper, Ger Doherty, deserves great credit as he made a save to keep out Shels when it was 0-0, I don't know how it stayed out.
"It takes things like that to win you a semi-final and it's about how we did as a team.
"Just after Ger made that great save Patrick McEleney hit the crossbar with a shot and that sparked us into life. We went on to win and win well and we're just delighted to be in the final."
Derry boss Declan Devine joked after the semi-final win that he's pleased the final is not being played at the Brandywell as City have a terrible home record this season, with six defeats in their last eight home league games. "It's hard to explain as we love playing at the Brandywell but we've been poor at home, thankfully our away record has been good," said Devine. "Now we can look for a good finish to the league season. We have two games, against Shamrock Rovers on Saturday and then St Pat's on our last day of the league season so we want to finish on a high."