TRX in Tallaght: The man helping Shamrock Rovers compete with Ireland's elite

Rovers' strength and conditioning coach Darren Dillon discusses building his business and working with the club

Shamrock Rovers

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Starting over is never easy.

Darren Dillon found out that the hard way. Having been heavily involved in haulage during the boom, the lean times hit hard. He lost his business and having gone straight from school into the industry, hadn't got a college degree to fall back on.

"All my family were in the haulage industry, so when I left school it was par for the course that I ended up getting involved in that haulage industry," he tells Newstalk.com.

"When I lost that business, I had a conversation with my sister that evening and asked 'how do I get out of this?'.

"I’m too old to go to school, I’ve too many commitments. I had mortgages and property.

"She helped me find education that would work around the schedule I had. She asked me ‘what would you love to do?’.

"That was the first time I think I’d ever been asked that." 

So he hit the reset button. "We got talking about coaching and working in a gym."

Getting off the ground wasn't easy, he says.

"I began with a bootcamp in my local park. I had eight people in the first class - and six of them were related to me."

That was March 2010. Fast forward seven years and it's safe to say Dillon has rebuilt his life around fitness.

The journey took him around the world. Having trained to be a TRX Master Trainer, he got to travel around representing the fitness programme which started in San Francisco more than a decade ago.

His bootcamps grew, where he had "60 or 70 people" coming to every class. This led to him leasing his current premises in Brookfield.

Dillon now balances life between his own business venture and working with League of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers as their strength and conditioning coach.

Investments 

Having appointed Stephen Bradley as their permanent manager last year, Rovers began a series of investments in the club including bringing in a Director of Football - former Ireland international, Stephen McPhail. Another former Ireland international and Premier League winner, Damien Duff, came on board as part of their backroom staff.

Signings like one of last season's Premier Division winners Ronan Finn sent a message that Rovers were keen to challenge at the top with Cork City and Dundalk, who were chasing a fourth consecutive top-flight domestic title.

Off the pitch, it's the conditioning they are improving on to best prepare their players to prepare for the demands of the league. 

With Dundalk enjoying a successful FAI Cup run, their domestic campaign and their historic results in the Europa League group stages last year, Dillon admits that's the level required to compete at the top.

"With Dundalk having won the league for three years in-a-row, they’ve set the bar in terms of their fitness.

"Rovers had always had high standards in everything that they do. I suppose with the new management coming in, one of the first things that he wanted to look at was how to add to what he’s doing with them on the pitch."

Their investment is also visible throughout the club, with Dillon also opting to work with the Under-13s side. This helps create a base level fitness of what's required of the players.

To balance both his commitments, he travels to his premises every morning at 6am or 7am to complete his own training and set up for the day.

From here, he works with the squad in Tallaght Stadium between 9.30am and 2pm in the afternoon - longer if gym sessions are required.

A quick stop to pick his daughter up from school and he's back on working by in his own premises at 5pm until about 10pm. This, coupled with weekend work, keeps him occupied pretty much around the clock.

The word burnout springs to mind.

"That’s the challenge. I’ve got great people around me, an unbelievable team in Kickstart who support me 100%. We share the workload and if I need to take some time back, the team always help me out with that.

"To work that much week in week out, it's important to enjoy it. If it's something you love, you have all the energy in the world for it."

Darren Dillon will be appearing at this year's WellFest, 'Ireland's only health, fitness and wellness festival', in Herbert Park, Donnybrook, on May 6 and 7. To get tickets, click here.