Glenavon has engaged the services of PWR Dundalk, a provider of strength and conditioning services, to ensure that its first-team squad is in the best possible shape at the start of the 2024-25 campaign.

“Many of our players aren’t fit enough,” said manager Stephen McDonnell. “Obviously, it is difficult to match the standards of the full-time clubs, but last season we were not even on a par with some of the bottom six. There are lads in our dressing-room who just weren’t at the level which the Irish Premiership demands. If we want to be successful, the first requirement is to be as fit or hopefully fitter than our rivals.”

PWR is headed by specialist strength and conditioning instructors, personal trainers and rehabilitation coaches Dannan Killeen and Aaron Casey. When Stephen was manager of Dundalk F.C.’s Academy he engaged the two men. “Dannan and Aaron did a great job when I was at Oriel Park. They work with individuals, small groups or larger clubs,” Stephen explained. “They assess each client and devise a plan to address any issues and get fitness to optimum levels. It is strategic work but can produce very good outcomes.”

PWR, in consultation with Stephen and the rest of Glenavon’s backroom staff, has devised a 12-week scheme which will run until the opening fixture of the new campaign. Every player in the first-team squad has travelled to Dundalk for a 45-minute, one-to-one screening session. “The players’ needs vary greatly,” said Stephen. “They are different in height, in weight, in general fitness, etc. Some have had injuries in the past which have a bearing on their present condition. Others are recovering from recent injuries. These factors have all affected the approach which the two lads at PWR have proposed.”

After the screening session, each player was given a plan for the six-week period between mid-May and the end of June. “The instructions and recommendations are geared to ensure that when we start pre-season proper on Saturday 29th June 2024, everyone will be in the best possible shape. The days when players can take two months off, turn up for the first night of training and hope for the best are gone,” said the Glenavon manager.

PWR will re-assess the condition of each player when pre-season begins and return, just before the big kick-off, to complete final appraisals. During the 12 weeks Dannan and Aaron will be available to provide advice and guidance.

Stephen hopes that, by the end of June, the squad will be in a good place. “I want us to have our fitness work largely done and be able to concentrate on all the other elements which we need to improve so that, by the start of August, we are an efficient, effective football team.”

Although PWR will end its direct involvement with Glenavon in early August, the focus on strength and conditioning will continue. “We have advertised for a student or recent graduate in this field to join the backroom team and provide ongoing support,” added Stephen. “It is a position which will be voluntary at the start but will have the potential to become a paid role. Strength and fitness are areas which the top clubs are putting more and more emphasis on. If we don’t, we will be left behind. It is as simple as that.”

Stephen hopes that this summer’s programme will give the players an even deeper appreciation of the importance of personal fitness and body strength. “We want to tweak the mindset,” he added. “We may be a part-time club but there is no reason why our squad members should not all be in tip-top condition.”

The Glenavon boss cited the example of Loughgall as evidence of what can be achieved with a fully fit, well organised team. “Dean Smith’s squad demonstrated last season how far energy and structure will take you,” he continued. “I think we have some top-class players. Simon [Kelly], Mark [Rimmington], the rest of the coaches and I pride ourselves on the thorough way we prepare for games. The other element is fitness. This project with PWR will help us to get that right too.”