Doncaster Rovers v Crewe Alexandra: Switch to Keepmoat gives Ian Lawlor chance to emulate mentor Shay Given

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IN terms of his footballing idol, Ian Lawlor is most definitely in safe hands.

The recently-signed Doncaster Rovers goalkeeper may have come through the ranks at famous Dublin club Home Farm, where the alumni of Republic of Ireland greats is vast – including Liam Brady, Johnny Giles, Gary Kelly, Richard Dunne and Ronnie Whelan among their number.

Shay Given is winning his fitness fight to be ready for the FA Cup final. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

Shay Given is winning his fitness fight to be ready for the FA Cup final. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

But it was another revered Irish footballing figure who he met across the water in England that Lawlor is striving to emulate.

That man is Shay Given, the country’s most capped goalkeeper ever with the pair meeting at opposite ends of their careers several years ago at Manchester City.

Lawlor remains close to Given, who has served as a bit of a mentor in his embryonic career so far.

Given took Lawlor under his wing at a young age at City and his words of wisdom helped crystallise his desire to strike out on his own at Rovers.

Acknowledging the input of his footballing ‘idol’, Lawlor, who is set to make his home debut for Rovers today after moving from City nine days ago, said: “I used to go to Landsdowne Road in Dublin to watch him with my dad and when it became an opportunity that we could link up together, we had a bite to eat and then we have stayed in contact quite regularly since then.

“I spoke to him before I came here and then when I got the deal done, I spoke to him after the game last Saturday night, which was nice.

“It is good to have someone like that when you are going to go through those rough and good phases.

“He said that it was a massive move (coming to Doncaster) and what I needed to do and I knew I needed to go as well. It was a no-brainer.”

The words of Given may have been taken on board by Lawlor, but truth be told, the 6ft 4in goalkeeper’s mind was made up to head across the Pennines anyway.

While a number of young academy players at Manchester City may be content enough to ply their trade in a comparative comfort zone in the development leagues at Eastlands, Lawlor, 22, has always been his own man, quick to embrace the challenges of loan spells at Barnet and Bury previously.

It was while with the Shakers that Lawlor enjoyed his finest hour in England so far, saving two penalties in a victorious FA Cup shoot-out against Bradford City 12 months ago.

With little realistic chance of a first-team squad breakthrough at a Galactico outfit in City, Lawlor showed no hesitation in grabbing the opportunity extended to him by Rovers, looking for a first-choice goalkeeping option following an untimely injury to Marko Marosi.

It was not something that Lawlor – set for his home debut against Crewe this afternoon – was never going to pass up, even accounting for the pressure stakes of keeping Rovers’ League Two title bandwagon on track.

On heading to the Keepmoat Stadium, Lawlor, whose highly-rated talent is such that he was called up to the Ireland senior squad in May 2014 while still a teenager, said: “It is something that I wanted and needed to do.

“It is not that someone was pushing me, it was just something that I wanted to do.

“I was lucky that the permanent deal did come up from the manager, who showed a lot of faith to bring me in. If it was a case of being on loan for the rest of the season and running my contract out and going on a free somewhere, so be it.

“But I am just grateful for the opportunity to get as many games as I can. I have been on loan at Barnet and Bury and been thrown in at the deep end quite early and it is something I have learned to deal with.”