Tuesday 14 August 2018

All about winning for Evans

Manager says he has no interest in moral victories

Wicklow Senior football manager John Evans
Wicklow Senior football manager John Evans

Daniel Gorman

John Evans has absolutely no interest in anything but victory on Sunday. No amount of plucky performances or battling defeats will suffice as his Wicklow side take on Offaly.

With no victories to boast whatsoever from their Division 4 campaign, it has been muted in some corners that a close-run defeat would be seen as a victory for Wicklow against their Division 3 opponents.

Evans rubbishes that notion though as he struggles to see how a poor league campaign would creep into a championship - a different horse for a different course. In his experience, struggling sides are perfectly capable of becoming reborn when the championship comes knocking.

"League is league and championship is championship.

"I've come across that before with Roscommon - they took a bit of time to settle in. With Tipperary they took a bit of time to settle in too and with Meath; they got demoted before me and lo and behold when it came to the championship they were a different side altogether. Championship is a different animal altogether. The ground is solid, the grass is growing and the football is faster and tougher."

With their proposed clash with Limerick shelved, it will be 49 days since a competitive ball has been thrown in by the time Offaly and Wicklow go toe-to-toe.

While it gives the Garden County the chance to park their forgettable league campaign, a month of club football has left Evans with a busy treatment room and has left his preparation in the balance.

"I think it's good that there is a sufficient break. That's a positive. It gives you a chance to prepare because you're after playing your league games and you should have given everyone a run at that stage.

"It is important to have a break before the championship however what I'm not happy with is because we only sat down early in May, it gives us only two weeks to prepare as a team.

"With the clubs going on in April, we don't have much time at all. The other thing is that players are out picking up injuries. They're after being out playing national league games and then they're playing league for their club and when they play league for their club they're targeted because they're seen as better players. They run into more of a chance of picking up an injury. We've had a litany of injuries for the last four weeks.

"We're trying to treat players and sort out their injuries (instead of preparing them for championship) so it's a very awkward place to be in."

Since taking the reins in August, Evans believes he sees vast improvement in the squad at his disposal but does worry that his players will not be accustomed to big days like this.

"I'm always going to say they have (improved)! What's really hurt us this year was the bad winter and the snow.

"We lost two and a half weeks of training with ice and snow and losing games hurt us too. Of course they've improved - their attitude has improved and it has been wonderful to see them slogging it out in snow-filled fields and really hard weather. Their attitude was tested and it was admirable to see how they handled it and dealt with it.

"I don't even know when the last time Wicklow had a win (2014) - I haven't looked back to check. But we certainly are going in thinking that we've a chance against Offaly.

"Some might say that if we put in a good performance that it will do but this group of players have worked hard. They've improved. They've a good attitude and the question is have they improved sufficiently because Offaly are a division above them and they're an experienced team. Offaly are roaring hot favourites but I still think Wicklow can offer a lot to the game.

"You're always concerned (about big-game mentality). You're even concerned for senior players because with their lack of success, will they operate on the day? We're not going there to play the occasion. We're going up to O'Moore Park to play a game of football and if we do that, we'll give ourselves a great chance."

With four days until throw-in, Evans is yet to finalise a 15 in his head and hasn't entertained the notion of a possible date with Dublin should Wicklow overcome Offaly.

"We're not near picking the team yet. We've another few training sessions before we consider that.

"We'll stick with Offaly! Some people have asked me is it a nightmare or a dream to play Dublin, we'll deal with all that somewhere around 6 p.m. on the 13th of May."

Operating - and surviving - a division above Wicklow, Offaly are understandably wearing the favourites tag but Evans won't settle for anything but victory against the Faithful County.

"Offaly when they needed to win and when they needed to find scores - they did it. That's a good sign for a team. Whereas we're trying to build a team and Offaly have had their team built.

"We've been building and we've a lot of new faces so we'd be hoping that we've improved sufficiently.

"Moral victories? I've never looked at them, I've never had one and I don't rate them. Maybe our supporters will be looking for a good performance and several people have said to me that if we finished within three points off Offaly; they'd be well satisfied. How can you be satisfied with a defeat?"

Wicklow People