Doncaster Rovers v Harrogate Town: Ian Lawlor on inspiration from Oliver Kahn, Gianluigi Buffon
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Doncaster Rovers v Harrogate Town: Ian Lawlor on inspiration from Oliver Kahn, Gianluigi Buffon

May 31, 2023

The Dubliner starts his second coming with Doncaster Rovers in today's Yorkshire derby with Harrogate Town.

There will be one keen observer following Lawlor's performance particularly closely; his father John.

No mean goalkeeper himself, Lawlor senior was an accomplished shot-stopper at junior level in Ireland.

In his formative years back in Dublin, the Rovers keeper recalls his 'old man' putting him through his paces and helping to hone his technique on a daily basis.

When they weren't out in the playing fields, there were video analysis sessions at home, where Lawlor junior studied the very best - with input from his dad.

There will be pride at his son's career, which started at junior club St Malachy's before moving onto Home Farm, a famous name in his home city.

After moving across the Irish Sea to Manchester City, after catching the eye of Blues scout Mick Collins, Lawlor's journey continued to Doncaster. After two years in Scottish football at Dundee, he is back.

As was the case when he was starting out, his father remains his biggest supporter, but also his biggest critic, if need be.

Lawlor told The Yorkshire Post: "He will never change. We used to have DVDs and recorded video tapes of Oliver Kahn and Buffon and study all the goalies and mimic the sessions that they would put up.

"We'd go out every single night of the week and my dad would take me out.

"That's where my love for goalkeeping started. He takes me down a peg or two when he needs to still! But overall, he's really supportive and looking forward to coming back to Doncaster and seeing some games again.

"I always listen to what he says and he's older in terms of experience. We do have our disagreements now and again. But we will always discuss games - if I have done something well or not so well. It's good to have that.

"I was young when my dad was a goalkeeper and cannot remember too much. He played over in Ireland for some clubs. From what I have heard, he wasn't a bad keeper back in the day."

Promoted from the fourth tier with Doncaster in 2016-17, Lawlor will add knowledge and seniority to a Rovers squad who have been bolstered by a welcome infusion of lower-division know-how this summer.

Expect Rovers' spine to be much stronger this season, thanks to the additions of the likes of Richard Wood, Joe Ironside and Lawlor.

Others not quite as seasoned in George Broadbent, Owen Bailey and Jack Senior will be driven in their pursuit to be successful, having been handed a platform in League Two. Some, such as Jon Taylor, will be making up for lost time.

In the second half of last season, Rovers, it is fair to say, lacked some leadership and direction. Without making big predictions on the eve of the new campaign, that should definitely change this time around.

The dressing room might be a bit louder too.

In terms of character, that quality was there in abundance - alongside prowess on the pitch - during Rovers' previous promotion campaign at this level, which Lawlor contributed to.

Key figures included John Marquis, Andy Butler, Matty Blair, Mathieu Baudry, James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe, with the latter in his second spell at Rovers, like Lawlor.

Today, Lawlor and Rowe start again at the beginning of another season. First up in Rovers' way are a Harrogate side who won comfortably at the Eco-Power Stadium in March.

Lawlor, who spent four-and-a-half years at Doncaster in his first spell, added: "When you have a good changing room and people willing to be there for each other when it's not going so well, that really comes down to it.

"When you have a squad of good people, you have a really good chance.

"Going back to when we got promoted last time, we had big characters in the changing room, which is what I love as well - big loud people. It keeps everyone on their toes and gets them going. It's really important."

For Lawlor, another motivational force in terms of making the most of his second opportunity at Rovers has a personal aspect.

Back in early 2019, the Dubliner was fretting over his future after being sidelined for the rest of the 18-19 campaign following shoulder shoulder surgery – sustained in a freak training-ground accident – with his existing contract expiring that June.

McCann, in his previous spell in the Rovers dug-out, showed how much he valued the keeper by handing him a two-year deal. It's something Lawlor won't ever forget.

He continued: "Definitely. I was gutted at the injury and how bad it was and I knew I was going to be out for a long time coming up to the end of my contract.

"I am grateful for what he did for me and excited to get going ahead and hopefully we can be successful again this season. I have kept track of Grant's career since."