Meet Brian Lawton, Imokilly’s Mr Consistency. It is a title, it should be noted, which Lawton shares with John Cronin of Lisgoold — they being the two players to start each and every one of Imokilly’s championship games over the past three years.
Across their 18-game unbeaten run, which has moved the divisional outfit within one hour of a rare three-in-a-row of Cork SHC titles, 30-year old Lawton has started and finished all but two of Imokilly’s championship outings, an impressive stretch of consistency.
The two games where he did not last the full hour both came in 2018, meaning Castlemartyr clubman Lawton played every minute of their all-conquering 2017 campaign and is on course to do the same this year.
Used at midfield, centre-forward, and his current base of right half-forward, Lawton has been as ever present on the scoresheet as he has manager Fergal Condon’s team sheet. In just two of the 18 games has he failed to find the target from play, racking up 0-34 (0-33 from play and a converted sideline) in total.
Again, both games where he drew a blank on the scoring front were in 2018, meaning he’s chipped in with a score or two in each outing this year and in 2017. But his scoring contributions of late amount to a bit more than swinging over the odd point.
Lawton had four points in their recent semi-final win over the Barr’s, going one better when hitting 0-5 during the round 3 victory over Midleton. They are a remarkable set of stats for a man who has given fine service to the divisional cause — Lawton has been part of the Imokilly set-up for 11 of the past 12 seasons (he hurled senior for UCC in 2013).
“Durability, I suppose, is a key factor and I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t picked up any injuries or knocks,” said Lawton. “I’d look after myself in terms of staying on top of my diet, stretching, so on and so forth, but you could just as easily get a freak belt which would break a finger or thumb and that’d rule you out.
There’s definitely a bit of luck involved. Paudie O’Sullivan, for instance, broke his collarbone earlier this year and missed a game. Even though I hadn’t thought much about it, it is nice to have played in every game.
Having started his adult club career at junior level, Lawton is hugely grateful to be now one hour from a third Cork SHC medal.
“I would have grown up watching the very good Imokilly team of the late nineties which won back-to-back county titles. Two of our selectors, Jimmy Smiddy and Derek Barrett, would have been playing. I remember going to see them and wanting to play for Imokilly.
"Castlemartyr were junior at the time, we are up a grade now, but it was always on my mind that I wanted to pit myself against the best around. To have two medals is unbelievable, I don’t take that for granted. You are not going to be playing forever. I am keeping the head down and trying to win as much as I can, while I can.”
Lawton continued: “There has always been huge commitment given to Imokilly, right from when I first got involved. It was just a case that we couldn’t get over the line and get further on in the championship. Once we got more of the experienced players back from the colleges (UCC and CIT), we really started to build.
"When you are going well, fellas commit to Imokilly from the very start rather than committing to a college. And then we have all the young fellas coming through. That has made a big difference. Our management, too, have been excellent. We’ve played upwards of 20 games this year.
"The challenge games that were organised for most Monday evenings from February onward, against top quality opposition, have been so beneficial. [To do three-in-a-row] would be massive. The guys mentioned it that the only three sides to ever do it are the Glen, the Barr’s, and the Rockies. It would be massive for us. But the Glen have a great side, some great hurlers.”