Tuesday 25 June 2019

John Evans claims winner of Wicklow-Offaly clash will be 'like a fly being killed by a sledge' when they meet Dublin

John Evans. Photo: Sportsfile
John Evans. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Whether it's his own Wicklow team or Offaly, their opponents in the Leinster SFC first round on Sunday, John Evans reckons they'll be "like a fly being killed by a sledge" when they meet Dublin in a quarter-final two weeks later.

Evans admits he'd love if Wicklow got that opportunity but still likened it to "facing the firing squad."

"If you die, at least you die fighting," he said. "I don't think we're going to learn too much from playing Dublin if we get that far. It's over a three-year cycle, it's not one game," said Evans of his plans for his third inter-county managerial job, four if his brief summer with Meath in 2012 is included.

Evans' immediate aim for Wicklow is to "give a good account of themselves" against Offaly this weekend. His principal aim over the longer term is to develop players and leave the right environment for others to pick up the mantle in the years after.

Others have tried and failed in the past and Evans admits it's by far the most difficult task he took on.

Their county champions Rathnew may have dumped St Vincent's out of the Leinster club championship last November but the belief to make a mark with the county side has not followed through with up to 10 players he requested turning the invitation to join them down.

"Now all the clubs have committed, to clarify this. All the clubs have committed," he emphasised. "But players that I had asked to play and had seen play championship, good players, they just didn't want to commit because of personal reasons obviously. But they would be good strong players that you would need.

"These would be guys that would play full-back, centre-back, midfield, centre-forward or full-forward for their respective teams."

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Apathy to inter-county football is a factor while a summer in America is a big attraction but Evans doesn't believe the current championship structures don't have as big an impact as is thought for turning players away.

"I don't think players look at it that it's the way the championship is set up. I think that they have other things in their life going on, whether it's through college or through travel.

"Take for a simple example, there are a number of well-known players going to America. Back in Tipperary, I remember one player was trying to decide whether he would go to America or not in 2007, 11 years ago.

"We were all shocked and horrified," he recalled. "Now? It's the norm. Players want to go. I just think the loyalty, the belief, the affiliation by guys towards their county has dropped considerably."

Evans acknowledges the attraction to America can be financial in some cases too.

"They are being given huge rewards to travel and play, not alone to America. Guys in the modern day are looking at the financial circumstances and look, who am I to be saying that they are wrong, but the same affiliation isn't there."

Evans sees it as a coincidence that there are currently three Kerry managers in Leinster and nothing to do with a diminished belief as Dublin cast a long shadow over the province.

"Dublin are so good that it has submerged the rest of them, it has drowned a good bit of the enthusiasm. Let's face it, with Meath and Kildare, those teams are progressing but they don't see themselves progressing against Dublin, that's a tough place to be."

Evans hopes he can put in the same building blocks in Wicklow that he feels he laid in Tipperary a decade ago and that a growing population in parts of the county can be tapped into.

"One of the strides that I'll try to make is to tap into that and convince guys and say, 'Hey look Wicklow can be successful'.

"I'm not going back over it but Tipperary didn't field a team the year before I went to them and yet they got it together and they nurtured their bit of belief that we're talking about.

"But there is one thing that was in Tipperary and whether it came from hurling or came from camogie or wherever they had that belief and arrogance and said, 'Hey, we're the best'. Whereas in Roscommon it had to be nurtured a bit to bring it out to get up from Division 4 to Division 1.

"In Wicklow, they have no precedent of it. They have a Tommy Murphy Cup, and that's not really something to look at.

"You must do the groundwork, as in the minors, U-21s and bring them up to senior. In Wicklow at the moment, we have Kevin O'Brien taking the U-16s and U-17s, I'm taking the U-20s. So we're trying to create that conveyor belt which will hopefully enhance the belief. Kevin will get guys going and eventually after three years, we'll see some semblance of pride in the jersey."

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