Friday 19 January 2018

Evans refuses to 'slaughter' his squad as Rossies bid to peak in summer

Evans: Early days at Roscommon
Evans: Early days at Roscommon
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

IF the challenge of being the new manager of a county team is akin to setting out on a cross-channel swim, then John Evans is the right man for the job.

There would be no point in diving into the water, thrashing away madly and ultimately sinking under the waves in exhaustion far out from shore with the energy drained out of you prematurely.

Right now, Evans, the Kerry native who was appointed as Roscommon football manager in November, is metaphorically treading water, as are most managers in the January competitions which launched the season.

The shallows of the FBD Connacht League enable him to dip his toe in the water with Roscommon, and Evans is not remotely tempted to look beyond the horizon where the promised land of trophies beguilingly beckons championship hopefuls.

So far, the Rossies have played two matches, losing narrowly to Leitrim and beating GMIT comfortably.

Tomorrow they will get a good test against Mayo at Ballyhaunis to complete their competitive outings in advance of the February 3 Allianz League Division 3 opener against Sligo. Win, lose, or draw, Evans is looking for a decent showing as he assimilates himself into the county's set-up.

Based in Killorglin, he has round-trips of around 600km to Roscommon, but the journeys are not a problem.

The former Tipperary manager – he also spent part of last year as part of Seamus McEnaney's backroom team at Meath – Evans is steadily, methodically utilising his experience to prepare the foundations for Roscommon's campaign.

A big part of that know-how is timing the build-up in terms of physical preparation.

The current mantra for inter-county training is that it must be 'savage' and hugely punishing to meet the demands of the modern game.

Evans does not subscribe to that theory. The road is long and hard for footballers through the year and he wants his players primed for action at the business end of the season.

"I have the players training two days a week and they do some gym sessions," he says. "Other than that, I don't believe in burying them at all. Lots of teams do five, six, seven days, but I believe in bringing them along nice and easy. Two days a week and a game at the weekend.

"There's no point slaughtering them at this time of year. It's a long season and if you go at it too hard, too soon, they've no energy and they lose appetite for the game."

College football and injuries are issues for Evans, as they are for all teams in the early part of the season.

The Rossies have around a dozen players unavailable for those reasons and the St Brigid's contingent is unavailable as the Connacht champions prepare for the All-Ireland club series, so expectations have to be kept in context.

"Like any other team, we'd be hoping to improve as we go on.

"We've done that from the first day to the second game and, hopefully, we'll have an improvement on Sunday. The opposition will be a step up, so I'll be hoping we'll rise a small bit more against Mayo," said Evans.

The manager is well aware of the calibre of player available to him.

Connacht U-21 titles in 2010 and 2012, and losing All-Ireland U-21 finalists to the Dubs last year, plus successive Connacht minor championships, indicates the underage structure in Roscommon is yielding positive returns.

In terms of numbers, Roscommon may not have a huge selection, but if all the quality players are available and fit, they can expect to be seriously competitive.

Evan's immediate ambitions are short-term and based on creating the right team ethos and method of playing.

"It's just too early to be making predictions and setting targets. We need to bed down for a while and see how that's working, how they're getting along with me and how I'm getting along with them," he says. "Results will flow if that goes well."

Irish Independent

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