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Higgins hungry for more glory to maintain Mayo reign


Mayo's Keith Higgins says Galway are unlikely to play defensively. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Mayo's Keith Higgins says Galway are unlikely to play defensively. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Mayo's Keith Higgins says Galway are unlikely to play defensively. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Despite having won the Connacht championship for the last three years and playing in two consecutive All-Ireland finals, Mayo were riddled with self-doubt against Roscommon four Sundays ago, according to the experienced Keith Higgins.

Finally a one-point victory was theirs, but only after players with high mileage on the clock were called on for the rescue mission.

According to utility man Higgins, there were moments that it seemed as if their long Connacht reign was over – especially when Roscommon began to break away from their defensive shackles to open a lead.

"There was obviously doubts going through our minds, all right. You would be wondering 'is this it?'

"Definitely there was stages when they got their goal that we were thinking, 'Jesus, I hope it doesn't end here now', but we kept battling away. Andy Moran came on and got the two points and once we got that we just had that feeling that we would go on to win it.

"We knew they were going to set up defensively. But I think the most disappointing thing is how long it took us to react to that. You're training for three of four weeks, knowing that you're going to be coming up against a team that is going to be defensive.

"You put a lot of work into it, you put a lot of thought into it and then maybe it comes to the day and you get a bit of stage fright, really.

"You would just hope that the next day you go out we would react quicker to something like that," said Higgins, who became the first player to win dual inter-provincial titles earlier this year.

Following on from last year's 17-point hammering to Mayo, the obvious tactic for Galway would be to try and replicate that Roscommon defensive line and frustrate the life out of Mayo.

But according to Higgins it would almost be against the sporting religion of the Tribesmen to line up as such.

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"I could be completely wrong, but traditionally Galway just don't do that; they're a footballing side. They didn't seem to do it against Sligo because they are a very footballing side.

"If you put yourself in Galway's shoes and if you had got a hiding like that last year you would be coming out trying to rectify that.

"So I wouldn't expect them to do it, but they could come out there the next day and throw a bombshell out there and go 13 men behind the ball, so if something like that happens it depends on how you react.

"From our point of view you're playing one of your biggest rivals here in your home patch in a Connacht final. If that doesn't motivate you, nothing will. From our point of view it's a Connacht final and it's a ticket back to Croke Park and that's all we're looking at," Higgins said.

It will be interesting to see what role Mayo boss James Horan assigns to Higgins for Sunday's provincial final.

Against Roscommon he looked comfortable with the No 4 shirt on his back, but don't be surprised to see the Ballyhaunis man spend most of his time scrapping for possession with the Galway midfield and half-forward line.

But after a season see-sawing between defence and attack, Higgins is happy to still be in a position to add to his five cherished Connacht medals and be in with a chance of claiming four in a row.

"They're up there, the only one to the top them would be the U-21 All-Ireland. But you are a county footballer, you're playing for your provincial title, the only thing you can win is your provincial medal so it has to be up there.

"You would like to be part of it. Honestly I didn't know until recently that the last time Mayo won four in a row was 1951.

"Every year, the Connacht final is one of the main goals. A Connacht medal is something to be cherished and we just want to win it, it's as simple as that."

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