The search for balance between theory and reality stands central to Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint Town goals, writes Patrick Van Dort.
Confirmed as the Premiership’s youngest manager in the closing stages of last season at 26 years old, McDonnell has spent his first pre-season building on the rebuilding work kick-started over the final weeks of that last campaign.
McDonnell’s commitment to a possession-based style of play attracted plaudits as Warrenpoint managed to beat the drop. Now he is preparing for a first full season in management excited to implement additions to his brand of football.
“The balance is good in the group,” said McDonnell. “We identified a need to bring in some extra steel and increase our physicality, off the back of those experiences last season.
“We will stick to our beliefs and have seen what does and does not work now in the reality of Premiership football.
“From that, we’ve made alterations and it is going to be a different challenge this season anyway, having initially been faced with an intensive short-term relegation battle.
“You always need to reflect and nothing is gospel but the aim is to take what you’ve seen works then tweak rather than make dramatic changes.”
McDonnell is fresh from a first taste of the Irish League transfer market.
“We had seven leave the club at the end of last season and managed eight permanent signings, plus two loan deals, to now work with a squad of around 22,” said McDonnell. “It was both enjoyable and demanding operating in the transfer market and getting to continue to reshape the squad.
“It was a constant run of talking to people or meeting in coffee shops, restaurants and homes to try and wrap up deals.
“But it was really positive and securing our main targets early on was significant, giving us more time to work with everyone.”