Keith Higgins heartened by send-offs from old Dublin foes

The retired Mayo footballer received messages of goodwill from Dublin opponents 
Keith Higgins heartened by send-offs from old Dublin foes

Keith Higgins of Mayo in action against Paul Mannion of Dublin 

Recently retired Mayo footballer Keith Higgins is not a fan of the Super 8s, remarking that “I just didn't really see the need for it”.

The All-Ireland quarter-final round-robin series has one year still to run on its three-year trial term, but will be consigned to history if either of the two proposals to reform the football championship receive sufficient backing at Special Congress later this year.

Higgins much preferred the structure that was in place up to 2017, which included four straight knockout fixtures at the quarter-final stage, as opposed to the two groups of four format introduced on a trial basis the following season.

“I wouldn't have been a huge fan of the Super 8s, to be honest. I just didn't really see the need for it,” Higgins told the Irish Examiner Gaelic Football Show podcast.

“I thought once you had your backdoor championship, teams had a second chance and that was fair enough. It wasn't the ideal championship, but it was as good as what we had.” 

The 36-year-old isn’t a fan either of the knockout championship currently in place, but does accept that it is “probably the only choice we have” given the shortened season brought about by the shutdown of GAA activity for the opening three and a half months of this year.

Looking ahead to the 2021 Championship, he expects Mayo to come through Connacht to set up an All-Ireland semi-final date with Dublin.

“Any time we have played them since 2015 has nearly always been an All-Ireland final and they haven't gone too well. Whether an All-Ireland semi-final will be different, I don't know. As much as the heart wants to say Mayo, the head has to look at the way Dublin have performed over the last few years. They don't seem to be showing any sign of that dropping off, so they have to be favourites again.” 

The four-time All-Star said he appreciated receiving messages of goodwill from Dublin players when announcing his retirement in January.

“I would have always made an effort to send a message to a few guys who I would have marked down through the years once they retired, just out of respect more than anything else.

“My view on it is you have the run-in with these guys on the pitch, you are both there to do what you want, but at the same time, there has to be a bit of mutual respect. I kinda appreciated getting those texts as well because as much as you dislike them on the pitch, at the end of the day they are striving for the same thing you are off it.” 

Reflecting on his decision to step away from inter-county football after 16 seasons in the Mayo shirt, Higgins said he didn’t want to spend 2021 frustrated at being unable to get back to the level he was once at.

“I just felt towards the end of last year, particularly in training, I wasn't really getting to the level where I wanted to be at or where I was at in previous years where I felt I could really make a difference on the team.

“I was looking forward to [2021] thinking, if that is the way I am feeling, if that is the way the body is, I will be going to training getting frustrated, getting a bit pissed off with myself for not being at that level. I didn't want to go through a year of feeling pissed off about the whole thing, not enjoying it, so I just thought it was right to go at that stage and not go through all of that.” 

He reckons he could have made a difference in last December’s All-Ireland final if introduced at the beginning of the second-half when Mayo enjoyed temporary numerical advantage, but added that “that is maybe ego talking”. 

In the end, Higgins was an unused substitute in what was his sixth time experiencing All-Ireland final defeat.

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