Thursday 21 September 2017

Lawlor desperate to pull out stops after 'shock' senior call-up

IRELAND U-21 1 QATAR U-23 1

Ireland U-21 goalkeeper Ian Lawlor
Ireland U-21 goalkeeper Ian Lawlor

John Fallon In Aachen

Teenage goalkeeper Ian Lawlor was yesterday reflecting on a hectic weekend that involved making his Ireland U-21 debut and receiving another first in the form of a senior call-up.

The Manchester City stopper had only emerged from the shower following his U-21 bow when he was informed of his welcome elevation by manager Noel King and goalkeeping coach Alan O'Neill.

"Firstly, I thought they wanted to talk about my performance against Qatar but instead they gave me the shock of my life," said the 19-year-old, who is already third-choice goalkeeper at the Etihad.

"This is the best possible news and I'm looking forward to the challenge. The season at City went better than I expected, so I just want to go into the Ireland squad now and learn from the experienced players and management."

FRIENDLY

Lawlor linked up with Martin O'Neill's squad yesterday and is in line to sit on the bench for next Saturday's friendly against Italy at Craven Cottage.

The goalkeeper wasn't the only bright note from a friendly that King used to blood new talent.

With qualification for next year's European Championships no longer possible with one game of the campaign left, the Ireland manager wanted to freshen up the ranks.

Only two of the starting team, Kenny McEvoy and Mikey Drennan, had tasted action at this level before and even that was as late substitutes against Montenegro in March.

This was an audition designed to test their physical and mental strength. Qatar put out a predominantly older group than the Irish, using Saturday's match and a second against Macedonia tomorrow to build for the Olympic Games in two years' time.

Most of their squad have operated as full-time professionals since the age of 13 in the Aspire Academy, the finishing school the Qatar FA is relying on to produce a team capable of competing on the World Cup stage when they host the greatest show on earth in eight years' time.

Some are even imported from Africa at an early age and naturalised into Qatar internationals with the aim of eventual senior duty.

Although they brought plenty of brawn to this workout, Qatar were outplayed on the whole by an Irish side harnessed by the adroit Jack Byrne in midfield.

The Dubliner, like Lawlor, is thriving at Manchester and his deftness of touch that evaded two defenders midway through the first half almost yielded Ireland the lead. His subsequent chip over the goalkeeper was equally impressive but the floating effort was hacked off the line.

For all their ingenuity in midfield and attack, the Irish rookies displayed a degree of naivety to concede first on the half-hour mark.

There was ample opportunity to clear Saleh Bader's cross but the unmarked Ahmed Alaaddin punished the defence with a low drive from 10 yards past Lawlor.

King had emptied by bench by the hour and the changes improved their attacking quality.

Late chances came and went for King's cubs but from the previous one, a dash to the end-line and cross to the far by substitute Bradley Garmston, was gleefully met with a diving header by the Mason Watkins-Clark.

IRELAND: I Lawlor (Manchester City) (J Merz Karlsruher SC, 61); B Lenihan (Cork City), S Griffin (Reading), P Sweeney (Reading) (B Garmston West Brom, 46), J Connors (Dagneham) (B Lewis Aston Villa, 46); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers) (L Gallagher Burnley, 46) , M Watkins-Clark (Stoke City), J Byrne (Manchester City); K McEvoy (Tottenham Hotspur) (Feely Charlton Ath, 61), ( M Drennan (Aston Villa) (C Wilkinson, Bolton 46), W Hayhurst (Preston North End) (Sadlier, West Ham 40).

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