By Cian O’Connell for gaa.ie
Roscommon just couldn’t cope as Mayo’s experienced warriors came running from deep. The All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final replay illustrated Mayo’s enduring drive and desire.
Unsurprisingly Keith Higgins was a key influence, venturing forward to create one goal and to score another.
Throughout a dozen campaigns in the Green and Red, Higgins has fulfilled a plethora of different roles. “He’s been playing out more in the half-back line for us this year,” manager Stephen Rochford says.
“I thought he actually did very well against Cork in a couple of instances and, you know, he’s played whatever, 90pc of his inter-county career at corner-back.
“Playing that more advanced role, he certainly has all the qualities to do that – pace, really good reader of the game, he’s experienced now at this stage, you would have liked a little bit more time in that position, we would have liked that in the earlier part of the season as well, but Brendan Harrison was out for the first part of the League.
“So it was only in the two final National League games that we got the opportunity to sort of release him a little bit further up the field, that we had planned over the winter.”
Rochford has been satisfied with Higgins’ rich contribution. “But, you know, he came and he scored a point against Cork. And he had advanced once or twice against Roscommon the last day (draw), hadn’t got passes – if you went back on it, some of our shot execution in the first half against Roscommon, you’ll actually see Keith coming into the picture on a couple of those and the guys didn’t see him.
“That’s what I’m on about in relation to the frustration when we look back on the video and see these opportunities were there with another pass or a little bit more awareness.
“The pace that Keith can come onto the ball and brings into the game, that isn’t something new to us. Whether he’ll get those opportunities, I’m not quite sure against Kerry. But a guy of his experience and playing in that area, you know that you’re going to get a bit more than just defensive qualities.”
Munster champions Kerry are next on the agenda for Mayo. Higgins has secured seven provincial titles in 12 years, but an All Ireland remains Mayo’s burning ambition.
“Look, he takes his whole sport very, very seriously,” Rochford states.
“His hurling as well, as much as he can. He’s a former minor and Under 21 and senior captain, so those leadership skills have been well identified since his teenage years.
“No more than a lot of the senior players – they want more out of their inter-county career that just a couple of Connacht titles and a couple of All Stars. They want to be back in another All-Ireland.”