Belfast Telegraph

McCourt needs time to reach peak fitness, warns boss Hamilton

By Graham Luney

Gary Hamilton has confirmed that star signing Paddy McCourt will play at least 45 minutes of today's Charity Shield battle with Crusaders at Mourneview Park.

The former Celtic ace is still building up his match fitness after completing a glamour move to the mid-Ulster side.

The arrival of McCourt at the Lurgan Blues, Nacho Novo at Glentoran and Sammy Clingan as well as Roy Carroll at Linfield has captured the imagination of Irish League fans.

Former Derry City star McCourt has agreed a one-year deal with the Lurgan club and the Glenavon faithful are hoping his magic touch can unlock defences across the country.

Northern Ireland international McCourt will be unleashed on the Premiership champions today and it will be a useful workout ahead of the league campaign which kicks off next Saturday.

The 32-year-old called time on his career in England to return home to his native Derry as his wife Laura underwent surgery on a brain tumour.

"Paddy hasn't played football in over three months and he hasn't trained much in that time as, naturally, he's been focused on helping his wife through her treatment so it's going to be a while before he's back to full match fitness again," said Lurgan Blues boss Hamilton.

Today's season curtain raiser kicks off at 3pm and proceeds will go to the Northern Ireland Hospice. Admission charges have been fixed at £8 for adults and £5 for seniors and 12 to 16-year-olds. Under-12s will be admitted free.

If the match ends all square after 90 minutes it will go straight to penalties - there will be no extra-time.

The Irish Cup holders want to go into the new Premiership season with a spring in their step and Hamilton wants to see a real competitive edge from his side.

"Players want to win every game they play, should it be a pre-season friendly or a competitive league match, and that's the mentality that's bred into them," he told the club's website.

"My main concern is getting them another 90 minutes under their belts and coming through the game unscathed and ready for next week's league game against Carrick Rangers."

He added: "It's all about people coming out and raising money for a very worthwhile charity. One never knows if at some stage in our lives we or a family member will be in need of the type of care the Hospice provides.

"It's a very worthwhile cause to support and I hope as many people as possible turn out tomorrow no matter which team they support."

Glenavon season tickets are not valid for this game and access to the car park will not be permitted after 2.30pm.

Meanwhile, Glenavon have appointed Eddie Drury as the club's commercial director. Drury will help promote the club in the local community and aim to open up new revenue streams.

"There is no doubt that during his tenure at the club Gary Hamilton, helped by the backing of the supporters and Directors, has done a fantastic job, attracting quality players, securing two Irish Cup triumphs plus European qualification three seasons in a row," he said.

"To help give Gary every chance of building on this success in the future we need everyone in the local community and beyond to help in any way they can."

Belfast Telegraph


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