By Brian McDonnell
IN the wake of Tipperary’s 11-point defeat to Laois on Saturday evening manager John Evans launched a stunning broadside at unnamed parties whom he accused of poaching members of his football panel.
“I have no problem with being on record about this,” an angry John Evans told the Tipperary Star.
“John Evans is there and I’m instilling a mind-set into the players whereby ye can go and compete and beat Kerry and these clubs are saying ‘hey forget it lads we’re a great job over here for you, we’re a great club to play for, we’ll pay ye, ye’re roaring certainties to be beaten’. That’s what I’m angry about. That’s what I’m upset about. I would wish young fellas to have the very best of opportunities, but when the season is over. When the final whistle blows and we’re knocked out.”
Evans, who has just completed the first year of a second three-year term, insisted that the situation whereby established players could leave his panel mid-season could not be allowed to continue.
“Absolutely, it will be one of the criteria that John Evans will be marking down for next year,” John Evans insisted.
“A team like Tipperary cannot be training and investing money, investing a lot of professional people only to send our players across the Atlantic Ocean for other clubs to be reaping the reward. Not any more, Tipperary can’t afford to do that. Play football for your county for the whole season and not for half of it.
“I’m particularly annoyed with fellow Tipperary people poaching our own players, setting them up and feeding them the wrong mind-set, the wrong signal, telling them that they are going to be beaten by Kerry and if we draw Cork next year they are going to take five. Where do you stop?
“Again, it’s hard to blame young fellas. They are in college and I understand it, they are in college and they are offered a lot of money into their top pocket. Anyway, that’s for another day, but it is something that will be addressed.”
Tipperary’s All-Ireland qualifier campaign came to an abrupt end in Portlaoise when John Evans’ men were comprehensively beaten by a slick Laois outfit.
“We’re disappointed, of course, that we lost the game,” admitted John Evans.
“There was a lot of turnovers and mishandling by us that resulted in us being punished very, very clinically by Laois. I felt that a good few things did not go our way.”
Tipperary did dominate for periods of this contest, but failed to punish their hosts.
“Looking back on the game in the first half we definitely had four or five wides that were kickable scores that went to the right of the posts,” John Evans said.
“You need to be putting those away. We needed to put the pressure on them and we went in then six points down at half time. The goal was a bad goal to give away really. At the start of the second half there were a goal and two points there for the taking and we ended up with just a point out of it. That was as much of a sickener.
“All year nothing has been going right for us. I’ve great admiration for these players. They stayed going when things have not gone right for them. That’s a real test of a team when things don’t go right for you. They stayed playing and they stayed trying. We may be a bit light and things may not have gone right for us on the day, but we stayed playing football.”
And, Evans, ever the optimist, was eager to look to the future.
“Tipperary football is in development. This is a tough learning curve. We’re in the game of sport and we’re in the game of competing. Laois are flying high, they’ve gone to division one, they’re in their own pitch here, we had chances, but we didn’t take those chances and we were punished for it.
“There’s a lot of football to be played in Tipp. I suppose we have come a long way and people expect us to make a massive jump and we’re not.
“We’re only taking itsy, bitsy steps. We’ve got ten or 11 of that team and we’ve got to add to that team. We’ve got to add to that physicality and to the height of the team.”