When Down overcame Tipperary in the early stages of the National Football League last year, the then Mourne county boss Ross Carr predicted that his counterpart John Evans would achieve considerable progress with Tipperary.
Carr’s words were to prove prophetic. Evans duly guided Tipperary into Division Two of the National League and when his side crossed swords again with Down in the Division Three final, they actually overturned the earlier league result.
And when Tipperary were subsequently just squeezed out of the Munster championship, 1-11 to |1-9, by eventual beaten finalists Limerick and were singularly unfortunate to fall by the narrowest of margins to reinvigorated Sligo in the All Ireland Qualifiers, 1-13 to 1-12, their footballing pedigree became even more pronounced.
Now Evans has broken new ground by becoming the first full-time county Director of Football in the country — his appointment could yet have interesting implications for Ulster counties who may be prepared to go down the same route.
With GAA President Christy Cooney having just recently underlined his determination to investigate claims that payments to county team managers above and beyond regulation expenses are becoming more widespread, the new title just bestowed on Evans was initially thought to be at variance with his ongoing role as Tipperary team manager.
But it appears that the GAA hierarchy has given its blessing to the dual role that Evans will now fulfil.
The GAA’s Official Guide states that members “shall not accept payment in cash or in kind in conjunction with the playing of gaelic games but this rule shall not prohibit the payment of salaries or wages to employees of the Association.”
As Evans will now be an employee, he will be free to fulfil his duties as paid Director of Football without this impinging on his team management duties for which he is still entitled to receive standard expenses incurred.
The indications are that some Ulster counties may be prepared to look more closely at this development with a view to perhaps taking a lead out of the Tipperary book. The county is clearly committed to promoting its footballing stock and sees this as the best way of doing so.
And Ross Carr, for one, is delighted to see Evans elevated to his new status.
“I have been very impressed with him both as a person and a manager. It is worth remembering that Tipperary is one of the strongest hurling counties in the country who reached the National League and All Ireland Finals last year.
“Yet in two successive years John Evans has managed to guide the football side to promotion and now that they are in Division Two they will be playing against teams like Donegal, Kildare, Meath, Armagh and Fermanagh. It just shows you what can be achieved through commitment and single-mindedness,” says Carr.
As Director of Football, Evans is in essence a Games Promotion Officer under a different guise. There are currently many Games Promotion Officers in Ulster and while they are not county team bosses, the door would appear to have opened to allow scope for dual roles in the future.
Meanwhile, the GAA’s planned scrutiny of county boards finances, particularly in relation to what are perceived to be substantial payments being made to some county team managers, is awaited with considerable interest.