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Dublin: 3°C Monday 1 March 2021
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Higgins happy to be back in the corner as the Green and Red seek fourth straight title

The versatile Ballyhaunis man had no complaints when moved into the forward line, but is taking back his familiar jersey.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MAYO’S KEITH HIGGINS will always be content to let the onlookers worry. He’s not the slightest bit concerned by having a changing role to play for his side.

His talents have been employed in a variety of ways by James Horan this past year, and he has found himself in attack as often as his natural home in defence. Tomorrow, however, the Ballyhaunis man will once again line out at corner back in the Connacht SFC final against Galway.

Higgins insists he’s happy to put in a shift wherever he’s needed, but the return to number four hasn’t required any re-training.

“I played there against Kerry in the league and they told me the week before that I would be going back there for that game, so I had a few sessions with the backs but is more natural going back there at this stage.”

Higgins lists off his rotations prior to that League encounter in early March – corner back in the second half of the All-Ireland final, starting there against Roscommon, centre back against London.

It’s different, sure, but it’s like putting on an old, comfortable pair of boots.

“It is a different mindset alright, but I don’t find it too difficult, especially when you spent most of your life at corner-back it is not too hard to go back to it.”

“When you are corner-back you are watching the fella that is alongside you, stopping him getting the ball and getting the scores.

“When you are corner-back you are watching the fella that is alongside you, stopping him getting the ball and getting the scores. When you are centre-forward you are trying to win ball yourself, getting on breaking ball and keep a watch on the wing-back going forward so you have a lot more things to think about, it is a lot more open.”

Keith Higgins Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

That ability to smoothly adapt has helped Higgins achieve dual status with his county. Though the skill that hurling demands make it a more difficult thing to pick up than centre forward or centre back.

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“The only thing is that you need to be hurling to get your eye in, and if you miss a couple of weeks at all, it is a step backwards. It is just to find time to get out and get the ball in the hand, the stick in the hand, get the touch again and that is the difficult part.”

Focus

Having done is share of roaming, Higgins is well-placed to judge the threat that’s coming down the tracks to he and his fellow five in defence against Galway. And, if Mayo could ever be allowed take their neighbours lightly, the influx of an exciting talent like centre forward Shane Walsh will focus the mind:

“He was very lively the last day,” says Higgins of the man who has carded half a dozen points on his last two outings.

“There was probably a lot of talk about him when they won the All-Ireland under-21 final, but he looked good but hopefully we won’t give him as much freedom as he got the last day. Again that is for us to worry about on the day.”

He adds: “Walsh probably stole the headlines the last day; the two boys out midfield obviously looked very strong and then you have the likes of Paul Conroy and Sean Armstrong who did not start the last day, they look to be a stronger outfit and we will have to keep tabs on them.”

Keeping that variety of threats quiet will go a long way to helping Mayo match a little bit of history in Connacht. Higgins admits he had to do a double take when told how unusual it was to win four provincial titles in a row, but is keen to add that the side won’t be side-tracked or psyched out by the potential achievement.

“You would like to be part of it but I did not know until a couple of weeks ago that the last time it was achieved was in 1951.

“That’s not trying to be cocky about it, I just didn’t know about it. It has been mentioned a few times but it is not a big factor for us. At the start of the year winning the Connacht final is one of the main goals.”

He adds: “I suppose the only thing I have to top it with is the Under-21 All-Ireland medal. But when you are playing senior football in Connacht that is the one thing you can win is a provincial medal. It has to be up there.”

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