by Paddy Hickey
Mayo football legend Keith Higgins can hardly wait for his return to his county’s hurling side.
After an illustrious career with the Connacht county in the football arena, during which he was honoured with four All-Star awards, Higgins chose to close the door on his big-ball career back in January, a matter of weeks after Mayo’s heart-breaking All-Ireland defeat by Dublin.
But the Ballyhaunis clubman, who won eight Connacht football medals, wasted no time in revealing that he would make himself available to Mayo hurling manager Derek Walsh for this season’s National League and Nicky Rackard campaigns.
“Because of my football commitments, I haven’t played with the county hurlers since the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2018, so it will be great to get involved with them once again,” enthused Higgins, who won a Railway Cup hurling medal with Connacht back in 2005.
“We get back training next week, and, after being not permitted to come together for such a lengthy period, it’s terrific that we can meet up together again to start our preparations for the coming season.
“And with the League starting on the weekend of May 8th-9th, all the competing counties will be putting a lot of emphasis on doing their utmost towards getting their players up to speed as quickly as possible,” added Higgins who played his last game for Mayo footballers when replacing Kevin McLoughlin in last year’s Connacht final defeat of Galway.
Additional good news for Mayo hurling fans is that Higgins, who this year will continue to feature in both codes at club level, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing on for his county in the 2022 campaign.
“I haven’t made up my mind on whether I will play on with the county hurlers after we finish up in this year’s competitions,” he pointed out regarding his future intentions.
“I’ll see how the body feels once the season is over, and based on that, I’ll then make a decision on whether I will make myself available for the 2022 season.”
In the 2020 campaign, the Mayo hurlers suffered the major disappointment of being relegated to Division 2B, so promotion back to Division 2A will form a major target for the charges of Higgin’s fellow clubman Walsh, who was also at the county helm in 2018.
“Last year, it was difficult for the lads to come up against sides of the quality of Antrim and Offaly in Division 2A, and that was a big factor in the fact that things did not go as well for them as they would have liked,” he remarked.
“So hopefully we will make a decent effort this year to get back where we last year.
“We would also like to improve on how things worked out for the lads in the Nicky Rackard Cup last year.
“In the final of that competition, they lost to Donegal (3-18 to 0-21), so it would be great if we could go one step further in the Nicky Rackard this year.”