Keith Higgins got his tenure as the permanent Mayo captain off to a winning start in Killarney on Sunday, while he was happy to get the points the Ballyhaunis native isn’t getting carried away just yet.
Speaking after the game Higgins said: “It was nice to come down here and get the two points and get the league up and running. I suppose, obviously you’ve to take into account how long they’re back and how much they’ve done, but we’re concentrating on ourselves and what we’re trying to do. I suppose it’s the first proper game of the year, it’s nice to get the two points out of it.”
It took Mayo a while to get settled into the contest but once they got to grips with the game, they never looked like letting Kerry get the upper hand again. Higgins was pleased with they way they game panned out saying: “I think it took us a while to settle really and we were maybe under a small bit of pressure in the first 15 or so minutes, but once we settled and got a run of things. But once we got ourselves moving the ball a bit more quickly and got it going up front, we got the goal at a good time for us. Again in the second half at the start they got going around midfield a bit for a while, but at this time of year, teams are in different phases conditioning wise, it comes in phases. You could be going for ten minutes and then the choke could be out a bit. It’s hard to know at this time of year it can be hard to know.”
The multiple All Star winner was part of a full back line that dealt with Kerry’s long ball tactic well all day and he was full of praise for the man in the number three shirt. “In fairness to Kevin (Keane ) he’d a great game, he’s a strong lad and he’s good under a high ball and can hold off a man. Even a few times there were a couple of brakes, Chris Barrett came back and won, one or two. We dealt well with it the times it came in. We’ve plenty to work on, but we’ll take the positives and move on.”
With two points on the board a win next Sunday against Tyrone would set Mayo up nicely ahead of the first break in the league after that game, but Higgins knows nothing is going to come easy for them against Mickey Harte’s side. “The way division one is now, you need to get points where ever you can. A few years ago you might have been able to pick a few games where you said you’ll definitely get points but the way it’s gone so competitive you can’t do that now. Every game becomes so important, Tyrone are coming down after a loss and they’ll be mad to get back up and running so it’ll be a huge challenge for us again. It’ll probably be a different game and we have to try and build on things and get new systems going under new management. Most of our work will be on ourselves and getting our own game plan going. They’ll be coming down gunning for two points, but we have to focus on ourselves, it’s no real rocket science or major tactics at this time of the year we have to look at ourselves” he said.
As for the new managment the team have settled in well with the changes and having some familiarity with the processes of both Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly thanks to their four year run as u21 managers is a good to have he believes. “Every manager has their own style, it takes a while maybe for players to adjust from something that you’re used to for the last four years. But Barry Solan would be probably similar to Ed Coughlan in his strength and conditioning stuff, preparation that kind of stuff has a few tweaks. But players themselves know what they have to do to get their bodies in shape before games. With them having the u21s for four years, they would have had the majority of the lads at some stage. Even the likes of Donnie Buckley back doing the coaching some of the stuff is similar, it’s just different management styles. No huge changes really.”
While he’s the team’s captain there are plenty of other leaders in the squad, which Higgins is grateful to have alongside him, he said: “I’d have taken the roll in league games a few times before, it’s not knocking the league, but it’s only the first week in February, but when the championship comes around it’ll be a different story. It’s a great honour and something, I’ll never say no to. We are lucky with the guys we have in the panel like Andy Moran, Alan Dillon, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, we’ve leaders and talkers all over the field. It makes my job a bit easier, that I don’t have to do to much talking and I’m happy enough with that.”
With the first test passed as captain, it’s on to the next one for Higgins and his team-mates next Sunday.