Christy Ring Cup
Dual star ready to fly home as hurlers search for Ring
MAYO’S hurlers have been given a huge boost with the news that their inspirational forward Keith Higgins will be available for selection for their opening fixture in this year’s Christy Ring Cup next weekend.
The dual star, who is currently in Portugal in a training camp with the county’s senior footballers, will fly back from the Algarve on Friday night and take his place in the forward line for the crucial hurling game on Saturday against Carlow at Dr Cullen Park at 3.30pm.
Mayo hurling manager Frank Browne (pictured) told The Mayo News that he was delighted that the Ballyhaunis clubman would be available for selection.
“Keith will be joining up with the rest of the squad the evening before the game and it will be great to have him in the side,”said Browne. “He’s such an important player for us.”Browne is delighted to have a full squad to choose from for the first time this year for Saturday’s match. “This is the first time I remember us having the full squad together, injury free and really looking forward to it,“ he explained. “We played Westmeath in a challenge last week and we were able to play the full championship team for the first time. We lost that game by a point but only after we made wholesale changes at the end. But just after half-time for a ten or fifteen minute spell we outscored them 1-7 to 0-1, and it was the best display of hurling I’ve seen by a Mayo team in seven or eight years. To see the players coming into the championship in that sort of form is really encouraging.”Reflecting on last year’s clash at the same stage of last year’s competition against the same opposition, Browne believes that Mayo are much better prepared this time around, “We gave away home advantage last year to have the game in Salthill and I think that may have put us out a bit.
“We were well in that game but they just had that bit extra at the end. We have a team capable of doing great things here though, and I think we can win on Sunday. We have experienced players in the likes of Derek McConn, Stephen Broderick, and Pierce Higgins. These lads have a lot of hurling behind them. All the players in the team have the know-how, they realise this is a big year for us, that we could do big things. They are ready for the challenges.”
Mayo’s defeat in the NHL Division 2 semi-final against Kerry was a hard blow for the team, but the Wexford native is very encouraged by the signs since that day. “There was a lot invested in the league and in the Kerry game by the lads, both physically and mentally, and it was tough to lose it. We were missing Adrian Freeman, Keith Higgins and Derek McDonnell that day and they make a major difference when they are in the team. We took a couple of weeks off after that game, let things lapse deliberately. We didn’t want the lads going back in straight away, peaking too soon. We’ve managed the training just right I hope, focussing ourselves for this game. You really want to be hitting your stride ten days or a fortnight before the championship.”
Browne himself is relaxed and eagerly looking forward to the tie, and he has his sights set high this year for the championship. He is very positive in his outlook for the game locally and where he sees Mayo hurling going. He is not content with accepting second best. “We set ourselves two goals when we got the lads together for training at the start of this season. They were to consolidate our position in Division Two and to win the Christy Ring Cup. Maybe we’re being greedy but if we get the rub of the green, or the green and red in our case, this team has the potential to go all the way. I’m keeping my diary free for the sixth of August anyway, just in case I’m needed in Croke Park that day,” laughed the Mayo manager.
Mayo (probable v Carlow)
Thomas Duffy; Brian Delaney, Paul Hunt, Kevin Healy; Ger Whyte, Paddy Barrett, Derek Walsh; Stephen Coyne, Stephen Broderick; Derek McConn, Pierce Higgins, Derek McDonnell; Stephen Hunt, Keith Higgins, Paul Broderick.
FRANK BROWNE “We have a team capable of doing great things here.”