Mayo’s new hurling captain felt the pain of a first competitive game back, but the taste of victory made the effort worth it after Mayo saw off Derry to pick up two points and get their season up and running.
After retiring from football duties, Keith Higgins is full committed to the Mayo hurling cause and he enjoyed getting the win in tough conditions at times in MacHale Park.
“It was a real dog of a game out there and the conditions weren’t going to make it any other way, the breeze out there was so strong - it had to be a game we were dogged it through there in the second half.
“I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable, a lot of heavy lungs, but we got through it. It is the games like that, that you take so much from when you grind it out sometimes, compared to great performances. But it is good to be back and everybody is on the same page when it comes to that, glad to be back playing.”
Making the change over to full time inter-county hurler from footballer isn’t something he’s found difficult he added: “For me personally it is not to difficult to change over, you know the football was a big part of life for a long time, but it is done and dusted and this is the main focus in life and it is very simple and straight forward and just want to make the most of it.”
As for having one eye on the footballers next week, when the hurlers are also in action - that’s not going to happen, while it will be different from him he says, but there is only one thing on his mind : “It will (be different ), but and I don’t want this to sound bad, but that is done and dusted for me. Derek gave me the captaincy and I can’t afford to have one eye elsewhere, the focus has to be on this and that is the way it is going to be.”
Getting two points in the bag on Sunday is a great bedrock to build the season on he believes, especially with the short lead time all sides have had since getting back training.
“The first game in the league is very important, you don’t know where the opposition team is going to be at or where you are at.
“To come away with two points is great and it gives you a good boost to it and a performance like that you learn so much from it and hopefully you can go again next week and take two more points from it and it puts you in a very good place for last few games."
The intensity levels went straight up from their in-house games and that is what you need Higgins believes, even if you’ve got a few lads trying to take lumps out of you.
“It’s huge, two weeks we had and we’d two in house games the last two weekends, but they were nothing compared to the intensity that Derry brought out there in fairness as much as you try and replicate it, it is very difficult.
"That game will bring you leaps and bounds just from the contact you’re getting the hits you are getting, it’ll be a good hit for the lungs as well. But every team is in the same situation, two and half weeks is very difficult preparation.
“You can do all the straight line running you want over the last four or five months, but when you’re out there and there are three or four lads trying to knock lumps out of you it is a different feeling.
“An extra week, maybe a challenge game would have made a huge difference, but to get two points to day is huge and we have that game under our belt and we have two points as well so you hope you can build on it.”