Who are Ian Lawlor, Ryan Sweeney and Cillian Sheridan? Breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of Dundee's three Irish summer signings

Analysing three signings Dundee have made this summer in their first season back in the Scottish Premiership

Cillian Sheridan hasn't played in Scottish football since leaving Kilmarnock in 2013. Picture: SNS

Ian Lawlor

The departures of Callum Ferrie and Jack Hamilton in the summer meant manager James McPake had to be in the window for another senior goalkeeper to cover for (and challenge) Adam Legzdins, who eventually became the club’s No.1 towards the end of the promotion campaign.

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A 26-year-old, Lawlor is at a low ebb in his career after failing to build on some real early promise. He was snatched up by Manchester City as a teenager and spent seven years on the books at the Etihad club before signing for Doncaster Rovers.

His debut season in League One saw him quickly established himself as Donny’s first-choice and had a strong campaign in 2017/18. Still 22 at the time, he looked like one of the best young prospects in the lower leagues at his position, but since losing his place in the team the following campaign his form has spiralled a bit.

He spent last season in League Two with Oldham Athletic and it wasn’t pretty. The goalkeeper’s biggest issue is coming for cross balls. Oldham lost a lot of goals last season due, in part, to Lawlor’s weakness in this area. He can remain rooted to his line even when the ball is dropping into the six-yard area, and when he does come he either lacks conviction or fails to position himself appropriately, often forced into awkwardly punching it (not too far) away.

His kicking, a strength earlier in this career, is another part of his game which has suffered, with a paltry 56 per cent success rate on long passes (per Wyscout) last term.

On the plus side, there is talent there to work with. Lawlor is an agile and athletic goalkeeper, capable of getting around the goalframe quickly and can get down in an instant to stop low drives from opposing attackers. He’s also a dab hand at saving penalty kicks, repelling four last term.

If McPake can get his new back-up to the level he was at Doncaster then he’ll have a fine signing on his hands.

Ryan Sweeney

Lee Ashcroft and Liam Fontaine formed an effective centre-back partnership last term, particularly as Dundee came into some fine form at the tail-end of the season, going from the cusp of the play-off picture to securing promotion with that victory over Kilmarnock. However, there are question marks over both going into this season. Fontaine struggled when he was last in the top-flight with Ross County, and at age 35 there is the suggestion he is now a player suited to the second tier. Ashcroft, meanwhile, hasn’t played at this level since leaving Kilmarnock in 2016.

Enter Ryan Sweeney. The 24-year-old former Irish youth international (he’s actually from Surrey) joins after playing regularly for Mansfield Town in League Two in each of the past three seasons.

This is a big centre-back. He stands at 6ft 4in with broad shoulders and certainly lives up to the title of ‘stopper’. Sweeney is an aggressive defender who never shies away from contact or getting into close proximity with attackers. Last term he had 7.92 defensive duels, 9.68 aerial duels and 16.25 recoveries per game. All three of those averages would have him in the top four for starting centre-backs in last season’s Scottish top flight. He also isn’t afraid to launch himself into a tackle.

He’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s to be expected when signing an up-and-comer from the fourth tier of English football.

For starters, he could do with some extra tutelage on how to get the best out of his sizeable frame. He doesn’t knock attackers off the ball as often as you may like – similar to most long-legged centre-backs, his centre of gravity isn’t that low – while he can also have unexpected trouble in winning high balls. He’s got a decent leap to go along with the height, but sometimes gets caught in terms of his body shape and positioning, leading to a 63.3 success rate on aerial duels, which isn’t bad but isn’t great either.

It’s undoubtedly a step up from League Two to the Premiership, but if he can handle it then expect to see him usurp either Fontaine or Ashcroft soon enough.

Cillian Sheridan

Many supporters will already be familiar with the Celtic youth graduate who also had spells with St Johnstone, Motherwell and Kilmarnock, though it’s been eight years since he last featured in our leagues, so it’s worth giving a refresher.

Sheridan is a towering striker at 6ft 5in, but not one who is lumbering. Though not blessed with speed or quickness, he gets around the final third well, which aids in his role as a target man forward. His play with his back to goal is pretty strong, while he stands out in terms of his aerial prowess. For his career he has averaged 48.6 success rate on aerial duels, which is a very impressive mark for his position and would have had him second among forwards last season behind only Kyle Lafferty.

He also works hard from the front, scoring well in average recoveries and interceptions per 90 minutes.

In terms of goalscoring, he’s never been particularly prolific, scoring in double figures in only three seasons out of 13 since becoming a first-team regular at a variety of stops across the continent and beyond. But 112 career goals in 439 games is not to be sniffed at. The concern is whether, at 32, he’s still got the scoring touch to supplement his other qualities, netting only three times in 31 games for Polish side Wisła Płock last term.

With Jason Cummings, Danny Mullen and Alex Jakubiak on the books, Sheridan’s presence gives Dundee something different and he has the chance to be a success without finding the back of the net regularly.

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