Mayo star Keith Higgins is relishing James Horan’s new-look side taking on Dublin in Croke Park later this month.
Mayo enter that clash with the All-Ireland champions in the unusual position of being four points ahead of them in the league after Dublin’s losses to Monaghan and Kerry.
Higgins is expecting a backlash from Jim Gavin’s men.
“[They are] beatable but you have to be realistic where these teams are at. Tyrone and them are probably not long back (from their team holidays),” he said.
The four-time All-Star admits Mayo are at a distinct advantage at this stage of the year as they returned to training earlier than usual after their qualifier exit to Kildare last June. Last year was the first time Mayo were not playing football in August since 2010, when they crashed out to Longford.
“A lot of the boys are back before Christmas [for the first time] in a long time. [There is] a bit of eagerness after the way last year finished, we have had such a long break. We are just eager to get back and playing games. Everybody is in a good frame of mind. Physically everybody looks good out there,” he said.
The return of Horan as Mayo manager is a boost but Higgins admits that players are eager to make up for a disappointing 2018.
“When he came back in he was eager, all the boys were eager given the way last year finished up. That has a lot to do with how we started. The long break meant lads were a bit fresher. It’s just a matter of looking forward trying to get each win.”
While it is the first time since 2006 that Mayo have won their opening three league games, Higgins, 34 this month, remains grounded.
“The performance out there wasn’t where we would have liked it to have been after last weekend [in Omagh]. But it is three from three, it’s six points on the board. It’s the first time we have done that in a good few years. You have to be happy with that. But we have to be realistic as well.
“The Roscommon game, anything can happen with the weather, Tyrone [were] not long back while Saturday (against Cavan) was a bit more of a test against a team who have as much done as we had.”
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