Henry Clark / @HenryWAClark
The signing of Sean McLoughlin in August 2019 from Cork City raised a few eyebrows amongst Hull City supporters.
Very little was known about the centre-back who was Grant McCann’s fifth signing as Hull City manager. The general impression was that because he was coming from the League of Ireland many tended to, in true English fashion, write him off as someone just plucked from obscurity.
But then again, was the reception to Harry Maguire being bought from Sheffield United in League 1 one of much higher expectations than in this case? Or that of Andy Robertson from Dundee United in Scotland?
The plan all along was clearly to allow the 23-year-old time to adjust and develop before making his mark in a Tigers shirt. The SPFL was probably one of the best leagues for McLoughlin to do so. One that is more physical and demanding than the Irish league but not the baptism of fire which the Championship can often prove
After making his debut for the Rebel Army in October 2017 the Cork-born defender became an ever-present, playing 48 games across two years for the club and finding the net five times. Cork-based journalist Dylan Walsh (@JudgeDyl) gave an insight into McLoughlin’s development at the club.
He said: “He signed for Cork City from non-league University College Cork where he was the star man in them winning the Munster Senior League and Collingwood Cup in 2017.
“The move to Cork allowed him to learn alongside former Irish internationals Alan Bennett and Damien Delaney (also formerly of Hull City) through 2018. He was thrown under the bus six games into the 2018 season but took to the pressure of the League Of Ireland very quickly.”
He added: “He’s tidy, organised and a good size for someone who is only 23. He’s come a long way in a short period and it’s about how he adapts to a faster pace game at Hull City
His qualities, according to Cork City fan Ronan Riordan (@ronan_riordan), were evident from early on too.
He said: “The fans really enjoyed having him here (at Cork City) and we felt that we were stronger with him at the back. His strength is definitely in the air and we would often target him from an attacking point of view too.
“Some of his decision making could be a bit rash but he’s only a young lad with a bright future ahead of him. We were delighted (at his move to Hull City) as we wish any player going abroad the best.”
The move to St Mirren appears to have been a valuable learning curve for McLoughlin who has become a feature in the Buddies’ starting line-up. The Ireland Under-21 international featured 21 times in his six-month spell with Jim Goodwin’s side who are battling for their SPFL status.
Despite their lowly league position, only one team (Kilmarnock) in the bottom half of the division have conceded less goals and McLoughlin, according to St Mirren fan Johnstone Bud (@M5Buddie), has been a key reason why.
He said: “He’s been one of our most consistent performers this season, the only outfield player to play every single minute of our 21 league matches. For someone who’s only 23, he plays like an experienced centre half.
“He wins plenty of headers in the air and reads the game very well. We have had seven clean sheets this season and have become a very difficult team to break down and Sean has been a big part of that”, he added.
“He has quickly established himself as a fan favourite and we’re all disappointed that he will be returning to Hull City.”
It’s been a busy year for the defender who played 25 times for Cork in 2019 prior to his move to East Yorkshire before his spell in Scotland and McCann says he will be using the option to recall McLoughlin to bed him into the side.
He told the Hull Daily Mail: “The initial thinking was to bring him back for a break, to get to know the players and get him ready for next season. As it happens, we’ve got two left-backs injured so Sean will be around us now until we get one or two back fit. He’s over the moon at that. “We’re hoping the paperwork gets done (with the cancellation of the loan agreement) so he can be available for Saturday (for FA Cup game against Rotherham United).”
McLoughlin has a favourable opportunity to crack league football in England at a club that are willing to afford him time to adapt and one which has a manager in McCann who is more than willing to give young players an opportunity. The chance to learn from the likes of Reece Burke and Jordy de Wijs in training over the next six months or so will stand him in good stead for the future too.
Like all fans we are gutted to hear @SeanMaka is not returning. However, we can’t thank you enough for all you have done for the club you have had some outstanding performances, your strip now has pride of place in the wee mans bedroom. Wishing you all the best for the future
The Tigers supporters are reserving hope on McLoughlin at the moment but because they are underwhelmed by what they hear; far from it. They understand McLoughlin needs a bedding-in period and are looking forward to seeing where his career develops from there.
Who knows? Perhaps the Tigers have unearthed their next future defensive star