Why Doncaster Rovers must be prepared to make sacrifices for success next season

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Sacrifices. Ian Lawlor has made plenty.

A potentially career-defining move to the Scottish Premiership ended up in a supporting cast role for the 28-year-old, who was away from his partner Jessica and their newborn baby Finley in the final few months of his time at Dundee.

There were outings in both the top flight and the promotion-winning season just gone, but 16 appearances in two years is a modest return for an experienced goalkeeper over that time.

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A bout of coronavirus halted Lawlor's progress in his first campaign before he suffered a concussion after getting back into the starting XI during his second term.

Ian Lawlor is back for a second spell at Doncaster Rovers.Ian Lawlor is back for a second spell at Doncaster Rovers.
Ian Lawlor is back for a second spell at Doncaster Rovers.

“It was probably my best football for a while,” he recalls.

"I felt I had come on a lot.”

Now back in South Yorkshire and reunited with his family in Leeds, he will be favourite for the number one shirt next season following his return to Doncaster Rovers.

Lawlor is expected to compete with Louis Jones and Ben Bottomley, both of whom have been offered new contracts, for a starting spot.

"Ben was a little bit younger when I was first here, he’s come on leaps and bounds, same with Louis – it was great to see him back,” says Lawlor.

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"They are two very good goalkeepers. I don’t see it as me being the favourite.

"I’m just going to play as hard as I can, or train as hard as I can, every single day. That will never change.”

Lawlor admitted returning to Rovers, where he previously spent four years from 2017 to 2021, was the “perfect fit”.

He took little persuading to work under Grant McCann again, claiming he was sold after their first chat.

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"The fans know I loved my time here previously and I’ve been back a couple of times,” he adds.

“I didn’t play as much as I would have liked to under him, but I’m delighted I have got another chance to work with him and hopefully play more often.”

What’s it like to work under McCann?

"Demanding. High standards, which is what I like. I expect a lot from myself.

"He’s hard-working and has got a winning mindset, a winners’ mentality. That’s what I want to work with.”

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Lawlor was a member of the Doncaster side promoted from League Two in 2017 and won a league title with Dundee last season.

What does success require?

"Sacrifices. Putting the team over yourself.

"It’s never going to be plain-sailing in a season, you are going to have ups and downs.

“In the moments where people aren’t playing as well, or as a team, you have got to get around each other and keep that team spirit, that bond, high.

"At the end of the day you are all fighting with each other for that same goal.

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"It’s down to having genuine good, honest people. Once you have got a squad of people like that, you have always got a chance.”

And there’s no time for sulking in a promotion push.

"Everyone wants to play, so you don’t enjoy it when you are sat on the bench,” admits Lawlor.

"When you are fighting for a title you are just as involved as you would be on the pitch.

"I have always got everyone’s back and I want the team to be successful.”