Roscommon football manager John Evans sought to strengthen his squad in the wake of their Division 2 league success, but he admits the lure of America robbed him of a sprinkling of the county’s emerging talent.
Present U21 players Diarmuid Murtagh and Ultan Harney are expected to figure prominently for the westerners this summer and Evans says there were a couple more budding prospects he was keen to bring on board.
Irish Examiner columnist Dara Ó Cinnéide said it would be “corrosive” if younger members of Evans’ squad were to ditch the primrose and blue for a summer in Chicago, but the Kerry native insists he has retained his full panel ahead of their Connacht championship opener against London on Sunday.
“There are a couple of guys that I would have liked to have had. They are young, they must go through the US experience first. Everyone collected at the start of the year has stayed with us,” he remarked.
Almost every football conversation that has taken place since the conclusion of the league has mentioned Roscommon as realistic All-Ireland quarter-final prospects but Evans says his greatest concern is a league hangover.
“It is about switching from the happy place that we were in during the league to having the cut and thrust of championship, that is my biggest worry. The expectation from me is that we can get into championship mode as quickly as possible.
“Of course it is a worry how quickly they will get into that championship mode given our opposition this weekend isn’t a Mayo and the second thing is that you are playing a team who are managed by a Roscommon man. He is not going to be short of knowledge of our team, he is not going to be short of attitude and it will be an extra driving force for London.
“Irrespective of what has happened already this year, Roscommon will still be seen as a surprise package if they are involved in the latter part of the championship. We know ourselves that the only way of getting there is taking it one game at a time.”
The obvious plus arising from yet another successful spring campaign, according to the Roscommon boss, is the step up in both confidence and belief among his players. “Every time you win out the league, particularly Division 2, there is an increase in confidence. It improves the belief in the team that they can achieve. Now having won twice in Croke Park, definitely that is something that can be put into the back of their minds and drawn upon when needed.” Kevin Higgins (collarbone) and Brian Murtagh (ankle) are both ruled out for the trip to Ruislip.
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