Tipperary football supremo John Evans is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in 2011 with an even greater appetite for the job he took on three years ago.
The Kerry man is just as enthusiastic and passionate about Tipperary football, if not more so, than when he started out on his journey which has rejuvenated football in the county.
"I think there is every reason to have a stronger appetite for Tipperary football because young players have come on, they have grown in strength and experience. It was tough over the last few years because we had to bring in players, now those players have the experience of playing for their county," said the manager.
He is satisfied with the 'freshness' of the panel and believes that the work that was put in and what was achieved last year will have given the players a sense of just what they can achieve and I expect a very good year ahead for us," said Evans.
The manager said the young players last year gained 'wonderful game time' and experienced playing at a high level.
Now more members of that very successful u/21 team are being brought into the senior set-up, bringing the total to seven.
Evans and his backroom team, which includes new recruit Brian Burke of Fethard as a selector, embark on their search for glory on Sunday next at Sean Treacy Park. It is the start of a campaign that they will want to use to keep the momentum that has been a part of the John Evans tenure going, with promotion back to Division Two of the National Football League one of their aims.
That ambition is something that will not be realised easily, according to the manager. He believes that because Tipperary have come back down from Division Two, combined with the fact that they won the U/21 Munster title last year, teams in that division will be upping their game against them.
"They will see us as the team to beat which will mean that every game we play in that divisio will be a very competitive one. People will be saying to themselves Tipperary can play football and our matches will get tougher as a result," he maintained.
The element of surprise that stood to Tipperary in the last two years will be gone and teams will be prepared for them.
"That division is a notoriously difficult one anyway. Last year there was only one point between five teams who would either go up or down. When we came into Division Three two years ago nobody gave us a chance. Now that we are coming down from Division Two teams will be ready for us," he said.
The league campaign starts on February 5 at home to Limerick in Semple Stadium with games against Louth, Westmeath, Waterford, Offaly, Wexford and Cavan to come.
On board this year is the former Tipperary and Fethard footballer Brian Burke who comes into replace John Cummins as a selector.
The other selector is Tommy Twoomey and there is also a new addition to the backroom team with Karen Coughlan joining as the team physiotherapist.
The manager said he was very happy to have Brian Burke on board and said he was a man who had the respect of the players because of what he had achieved in the game.
"Brian is a very driven man, a motivated person who commands respect and the fact that he has done it in a Tipperary jersey means he is respected by everybody involved," said the manager.
Evans will have to do without Kevin Mulryan after the player announced his retirement from inter county football because of injury.
The manager paid tribute to his towering midfielder and said he would be greatly missed in the dressing room and on the field because he brought so much to the set up in terms of skill, his physical presence, his height and his character.
Evans said that they would use the next few weeks to assess the players they have at their disposal. He said the Kerry draw in the Munster championship (away on May 22) was a disaster of a draw but that there was no point in planning for that until they had a good look at what they had to work with.
"At the moment there is such a big gap there between Kerry and Tipperary. If we can build up momentum in the league and generate a good team spirit and if we can get the best out of the young lads we have who have a great belief and ambition well then we can formulate a plan to try and take on Kerry when that comes around," he said.
Starting his fourth year in charge, Tipp football boss John Evans is looking forward to a challenging season, beginning this weekend with a McGrath Cup opener agains UL.