John Evans: Treatment of Division Four teams is ‘appalling’

Wicklow manager John Evans says the “appalling” decision to cancel their Division 4 game against Limerick does nothing for the promotion of Gaelic football in the county.

The counties had hoped to stage the game — one of four in the division which were victims of the bad weather and subsequently cancelled — at the start of May, but did not receive permission from Croke Park.

The game would have provided winless Wicklow with a chance to move above Limerick and off the bottom of the table.

Evans, who revealed the snowstorms prevented Wicklow from training for three weeks, feels the GAA’s refusal has hampered them.

“They’ve decided on it now, anyway. I don’t know if there is much point in crying over spilt milk. It’s been a horrible year so far for Wicklow, between the double stint of snow and players not being able to train and then the fixture being taken away. It’s certainly not helping the promotion of the game.

“The game [against Limerick] would have helped us in so many aspects. Both counties wanted to play, but the powers-that-be said no and it’s certainly not helping the development of football within the county of Wicklow.

“When you’re down at the bottom, there aren’t too many leg-ups being given to develop their game. They’re left to their own devices. Wicklow was the worst-hit football county, because we weren’t able to train for two weeks, because of the weather, and then we got another week of snow and weren’t able to train again, and then not to be given the opportunity to finish out the league was just appalling.”

Wicklow lost four of their six matches, drawing the other two, but Evans is optimistic about their future, despite the setbacks.

“Wicklow are improving. It might not show on the score-lines, but there’s a young bunch of players after coming in and it’s about giving them game-time. Wicklow are going through a huge transition. It’s happening at under-age level, as well, with Kevin O’Brien over the U16s and U17s and I’m taking the U20s, as well. It can’t just be one person coming in; it takes a whole movement to change things.”

The Killorglin man is not too keen on the idea of a tiered championship, as has been touted by GAA president John Horan.

“All my life I’ve been trying to achieve and, if you take that light away from the end of the tunnel, you take everything away. I’m not for a moment saying we would be able to take on the higher powers yet, but I remember with Tipperary going to take on Dublin [in 2010] and people thought we’d be annihilated in Croke Park, but it was a great experience. If you take away the hope and the aspiration from a team, you take away everything.”

Evans would have appreciated the final-round game when Wicklow face Offaly, led by fellow Kerryman Stephen Wallace, in a Leinster SFC preliminary round match on May 13, the winners facing Dublin.

“We had an 11-point defeat to Leitrim and Offaly are after putting up a big score (1-20) against Westmeath, so we’re coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. It’ll be a huge challenge to us, but Wicklow people like a challenge.”


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