22 year-old Ian Lawlor began his youth career at St. Malachy’s, on the Northside of Dublin. Then, the goalkeeper moved to Home Farm’s renowned academy, which has produced dozens of players including former Leeds United left-back Ian Harte and his uncle, Gary Kelly.
Throughout Lawlor’s youth career, his father (as a former junior level goalkeeper), provided extra training beyond that which was scheduled. This involved watching videos of Oliver Kahn.
This certainly helped, as the Irishman caught the eye of Manchester City scout Mick Collins when 16 years-old: Lawlor moved to The Citizens’ development side in 2010, and was helped in his transition by fellow Irishman and City’s then No.1, Shay Given.
And, Lawlor began his break-through in the 2012-13 season. After becoming the development side’s first-choice stopper, the goalkeeper joined the senior team’s tour of Austria. During the following season, Lawlor was involved in some of the first team’s Champions League matches.
This saw the Irishman develop a close bond with City’s then No.1, Joe Hart. The England international even recommend Lawlor to the agency that represents him (and Gareth Bale).
However, the goalkeeper was yet to make his senior debut, but this was soon to come: in December 2015, Lawlor (then 21 years-old) joined to fourth-tier Barnet on an emergency-loan.
Here, the Irishman performed well enough to earn another loan-move at the expiration of this spell, this time to third-tier Bury. Lawlor kept five clean-sheets during his time at Gigg Lane.
The goalkeeper returned to City for the 2016-17 season, although found his opportunities limited. This sparked interest from League One and Two clubs in the January transfer window and Lawlor opted for Doncaster Rovers, signing a two and a half year contract.
Quickly, the Irishman established himself as Darren Ferguson’s first-choice stopper, keeping 5 clean sheets during 19 appearances as the fourth-tier table-toppers achieved promotion. And, the Irishman has impressed this season in the third-tier, making numerous key saves.
The goalkeeper has also featured on the international youth stage, although it wasn’t until Under-19 level that Lawlor established himself as first-choice for his age. The Irishman has since received two senior squad call-ups, first when Rob Elliot was unavailable and then when injury struck Keiren Westwood. Lawlor is yet to play a senior game for The Green Army, though.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Lawlor is the definition of the modern goalkeeper, with his main strength lying in his distribution: whilst the Irishman’s ball-playing skills are integral to Rovers’ style of play in building play from the back, Lawlor can also provide a more direct supply to the front and launch counter-attacks.
However, the deployment of this ‘sweeper-keeper’ style of goalkeeping can be very risky. And, Lawlor has unfortunately found this out the hard way, calamitously allowing Mathieu Baudry’s back-pass to slip under his foot in Doncaster’s 2-1 victory over Portsmouth.
Nevertheless, the Irishman need not worry: this was merely a one-off. These types of mistakes happen to even the world’s best sweeper-keepers. Just ask Manuel Neuer, for example.
Lawlor is a superb shot-stopper, possessing lightning-fast reactions and a superb diving reach. This has seen the goalkeeper make some high-quality, (Oliver) Kahn-esque saves. For examples, see Doncaster’s season opener against Gillingham and the Cup match at Arsenal.
Aided by his height (the Irishman stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall), Lawlor is also capable when dealing with crosses. Previously, the goalkeeper was hampered by a tendency of trying to punch the ball out of the eighteen-yard box, although has recently begun to hold more crosses.
Nonetheless, Lawlor could still improve his catching. The goalkeeper commonly ‘snatches-down’ when trying to hold powerful shots, allowing the opposition to take a second-effort at goal. This can hinder Lawlor’s game and resolving the issue would be highly beneficial.
Overall, Lawlor is a very capable Sky Bet League One goalkeeper who, at just 22 years-old, could go on to play at a much higher level in the future and on the international stage.
What They Say
Darren Ferguson – Manager of Doncaster Rovers
“He’s got a lot of potential, he’s a good size, good with his feet.”
Carlo Cudicini – Coached Lawlor with Ireland Under-21s
“He has all the quality to become a Premier League goalkeeper.”