Wicklow manager John Evans says his team have the belief that they can perform against anybody following their narrow loss to Kildare in the Leinster championship opener in Netwatch Dr Cullen Park on Saturday evening.

Evans' side, who finished in mid-table in Division 4 in the spring, gave last year's Super 8 contenders a fright, with Darren Hayden's goal in the final quarter setting up a nervy finish for the favourites. 

The Wicklow boss, who guided his team to a surprise win over Offaly at this stage last year, was left to rue his team's slow start, which saw them fall five points adrift at half-time. 

But Evans praised his side's mentality in roaring back into the contest and warned that they were primed for a tilt at the qualifiers. 

"Had we got that goal earlier in the second half, I think we'd have won that game," Evans told RTÉ Sport afterwards.  

"It took us a while to get to the tempo of the game. In that first half, we were sort of chasing it a little. And they were lorded the kickouts.

"In the second half, we went more for a running game and we kicked 1-06 there in the second half. But had the goal come earlier, I think we'd have won the game.

"This group are bonded together and they were wanting to show this all along. Because during the league, they were really unfortunate with a few decisions and injuries.

"But one thing is certain. This team is growing and they've been put together over two years rather than six months. 

"These guys are pawing the ground, they're ready to go again. They know that they're now at a level where they can perform with anybody.

"And that's huge in Wicklow. We need that belief because there isn't a history there. And this group are trying to change that and certainly they're going in the right direction."