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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Until James Horan came in you could choose the chipper over the gym according to Keith Higgins

The Mayo captain says the mentality of the Mayo players changed dramatically under James Horan.

Higgins was handed the Mayo captaincy this year.
Higgins was handed the Mayo captaincy this year.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Mayo captain Keith Higgins has hailed the work James Horan did with the Mayo team during his four years in charge, saying the Ballintubber man completely changed the side’s mentality.

Mayo have shown an unerring consistency in the last four years, reaching two All-Ireland semi-finals either side of two final appearances. Part of that is down to the level of professionalism the former boss brought to the Mayo camp.

In an interview with gaa.ie Higgins said “Being honest, up until James came in. I don’t know how to word this exactly,James put in a whole set-up that made it a lot easier to get the best out of players.”

“I probably wasn’t putting enough into it either. We would have had gym programmes and all that but you’d probably be thinking, some nights you’d go and some nights you wouldn’t, it was as simple as that. You’d go when it suited.”

Higgins won four Connacht titles in a row under Horan’s stewardship, and admits the increased commitment to training has helped to get the best out of him, but there was a time when he may not have been so keen to spend his evenings in the gym.

“When I came in first, it was a matter of train Tuesday, Thursday and play on Sunday. There might have been a gym programme, but it wasn’t exactly monitored or anything.”

You might go and you might not go and you might go down to the chipper one of the days instead!

“But James just came in and changed the whole mentality. The mentality changed, the lifestyle changed, the whole lot changed. Hopefully it’s still going in the right direction.”

Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes have come in to replace Horan for 2015 and Higgins revealed that there has been no major changes, just a few minor tweaks here and there.

One of their first moves was to give Higgins the captaincy, the same honour they bestowed on him when they managed the All-Ireland winning U21 side of 2006.

“They have fitted in handy enough in fairness. It takes a bit of getting used to at the start. When you are with James for so long, you get into a bit of a comfort zone but they have been taking lads out of that a bit hopefully and maybe making things a bit more competitive within the panel.”

The three-time All-star has been a key member of the Mayo hurling panel in recent years but took the decision to step away from the county hurling set-up this year in a bid to focus all his energy on football.

Given that I’m 30 years of age, it’s something that was always going to have to give. Unfortunately it had to happen this year. We’ll see what happens in the future.

Higgins was named at corner-back for Mayo’s Connacht championship semi-final with Galway on Sunday afternoon as the green and red ignite their bid to capture a historic fifth Connacht title in a row.

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