Promotion confirmed and a Division 2 final to look forward to tomorrow, John Evans can reveal all now. When he said Roscommon mightn’t be ready for the jump to Division 1, he was having us on. Same for the time he insisted the consolidation of their presence in Division 2 was “a realistic challenge”.
And when he insisted they didn’t have the pool of players for the top flight? Yeah, afraid he was pulling our legs with that claim too.
Part of it meant misleading supporters. “It’s something that Roscommon people don’t like,” he stated in February about his public assessment of the team’s aspirations at the time. “It’s something maybe a lot of players don’t like. But that is being realistic.”
It was a means of quelling the hype, he admits, but he was being just as mischievous. As he explains: “We were motoring on grand (in January) and then a bit of punditry came out over the airwaves and we weren’t mentioned among five teams with a chance of being promoted. We looked at it and I said ‘How about we give them exactly what they’re saying and say we aren’t interested and we wouldn’t be good enough?’ It worked a treat.
“We spoke with the players first and it was decided to give the so-called experts what they believed. It took pressure off, people in the football business thought we weren’t interested. People like to hear that they are right.
!When you don’t mention a team for promotion among over half of the division that says it all, doesn’t it? It copper-fastened what we wanted to do. Our target was Division 1. We listened to what was said, said that we agreed with it and acted another way.”
Barring a disastrous championship, a second successive promotion push has also solidified Evans’ mandate to rule in Roscommon. He was re-appointed for a two-year term last September but knew that to reach the next stage needed improvements.
“If people looked at us properly they would have seen I wasn’t happy with the way we were and we needed to improve. It was for that reason that I brought in Liam Kearns and Joe Sweeney as coaches and Basil Mannion as another selector to widen the net.
We also brought in a new nutritionist in Jamie Rowan who has been excellent. They are four personnel who have enhanced our arsenal. We weren’t just happy with promotion (to Division 2) last year.”
Having former Limerick and Laois manager Kearns for company on the drive to Roscommon has given Evans plenty of time to bounce ideas off his fellow Kerryman. “We believe in the same style of football so it was easy for him to marry in with us.”
It’s not that he needed one of his own to assist him. As much as he was an outside manager, it was clear to Evans from early out that Roscommon were going to back him. “In actual fact, I wasn’t inclined to go there at the start and it took a bit of convincing for me to accept it from the likes of Fergal O’Donnell and those boys that were at the heart of it.
I knew if the likes of Fergal O’Donnell wanted an outside manager he saw reason for it. He would be an advocator of bringing in some freshness. They knew I had brought Tipperary from (Division) Four to Three to Two.
I can’t guess what they were thinking but I’d like to imagine they were putting the team into a safe pair of hands and a guy who knew how to get promoted. I think it was important for the county board that they weren’t going willy-nilly on somebody when they were putting a big investment into training.
We moved our sessions out of Roscommon for the first four or five months of each year to Mullingar and Athlone and they are costly things to do but I think they trusted the methods that were being used.”
Evans arrived in Roscommon in the same year the U21s claimed their second Connacht crown in three seasons. He knew the raw materials were there. With his strong reputation, it made for a potent cocktail but if there was heightened expectation he didn’t notice it.
“You can’t get promoted without having the CCs underneath the bonnet. I saw that there was talent there but at no stage did I feel there was pressure to deliver. I knew I was doing the right thing with what I was doing.
"I had done it with Laune Rangers and developing them because they hadn’t won a championship in a long time. I brought the minors and 21s, developing them to senior, and it was a huge success.
"If you win things in Kerry you’re certainly going places. When I went to Tipperary I knew the same template and style was going to work. It’s about putting a system in place. After those experiences, I suppose there was a confidence there that you knew what the end result was going to be (in Roscommon).
"We’ve a wonderful strength and conditioning guy in Keith Carr and when he was coming on board I was saying ‘You know we’re going to win because this system works’. It’s about instilling confidence into your management team who in turn instil it into the players they’re going to be dealing with. We’ve got it this far now but there’s a good bit more work to do.”