Huw Lawlor has morphed into an absolute stalwart in Kilkenny's defensive set-up, and his savage work on Sunday made sure Kilkenny are into yet another All-Ireland hurling final. The reigning All-Star at full back has emerged as a Hurler of the Year candidate on a Kilkenny team who'll test Limerick to the last on Sunday week. However, despite Lawlor's stature putting fear into forwards across the country, the Kilkenny full-back was once a talented young footballer who was turned away by English scouts due to his small stature
Following his dominant performance in Kilkenny's win over Clare in Croke Park last Sunday, Cobh Ramblers manager Shane Keegan shared some fascinating detail about Lawlor's development as a sportsman.
According to Keegan, Huw Lawlor was a 'top class centre back' back in his youth football days as well. Lawlor played for Evergreen FC in Kilkenny and also represented the Kilkenny District League in the Kennedy Cup while in secondary school. Keegan says he would routinely recommend Lawlor's abilities to football scouts in the UK only to receive the same response - that the diminutive player wasn't big enough to make it in England.
Well, fast forward 13 or 14 years. How wrong they were.
As a young soccer player in Kilkenny this man was a top class centre back.
I recommended him to numerous English scouts but the answer was the same every time….
“He’s too small”
Hard to believe looking at him now 🤯 https://t.co/CBSKLPYnAm
— Shane Keegan (@ShaneKeegan81) July 9, 2023
Looking at Lawlor it's hard to believe that any scout would have turned him away based on his size, with the defender nearly always one of the largest physical presences in inter-county hurling.
However, the transformation from then to now has to be seen to be believed. Keegan shared a picture of a much younger Huw Lawlor in the O'Loughlin Gaels kit, and it's amazing to see the difference.
Given the below tweet about Huw got a bit of interest, it’s worth sharing a photo showing just how small he was at 13.
Give them time lads 📈😁
📸 @gerbret https://t.co/o3ukjl0PhP pic.twitter.com/YyfJMCSfg6
— Shane Keegan (@ShaneKeegan81) July 11, 2023
13-year-old Lawlor can be seen in the middle of a pre-match parade and the other youngsters look to be towering over him. In fairness to Lawlor though, he doesn't appear to be in any way deterred, with the 13-year-old sporting a very familiar steely look that Croke Park knows only too well.
Still even if Lawlor hadn't grown so much, it's clear his tenacity and athleticism established him perfectly for a life in elite sport. Scouts were wrong to ignore Keegan's insight.
Soccer's loss has been Kilkenny's gain with the defender continuing to shine for the Cats.
If Kilkenny have any chance of beating Limerick in the All-Ireland final, you can be sure that the man mountain Lawlor will be doing his thing, terrorising John Kiely's forwards.