Keeping it simple
ON the field he is coolness personified, scurrying around the pitch in that all-action style of his, getting a hand in there, scoring a goal or a point there. Looking every inch the All Star.
Keith Higgins (28) would probably be the first to admit that he is much more comfortable out there on the field, dodging bullets and making tackles, than fielding questions from reporters about the ins and outs of being a county footballer.
Still, his laid-back personality and easy-going nature make him good company and, when the need arises, he can sidestep an enquiry deftly like any good corner-back — or wing-forward for that matter.
Last week he sat down with The Mayo News at Breaffy House Hotel ahead of his fourth All-Ireland semi-final to discuss his new role, and the challenge that awaits Mayo next Sunday.
MF: What are you expecting from Tyrone?
KH: It’s going to be a tough battle. Battle is the word. Tyrone have their style and it’s been working well for them.
They’ve been on television a lot this year so we’ve seen a lot of them. They’re a good team, they have a few lads with two and three All-Irelands in their back pocket, and you can’t buy that kind of experience. It’s going to be a tough game but we’re not going to focus too much on them, we’re going to focus on ourselves.
MF: Do the players feel any pressure going in as favourites?
KH: I don’t think so. It’s not something we’re taking much notice of. Luckily we have lads that are mature enough and experienced enough to know that what the bookies are saying counts for nothing when you get out on to the pitch.
MF: There seems to be a very relaxed atmosphere within the group this year before games. Does that come from having prepared well?
KH: Sometimes you hear of training sessions that are very complicated. At the end of the day you have to go back to basics that you did as an under 12.
Just go back to what you do in a game, footpassing and handpassing. It’s not rocket science. And keep doing it. That way it comes off in a game, it’s repetition.
MF: How much credit does Donie Buckley deserve this summer?
KH: It’s been well-documented that Donie has been working a lot on our tackle. I suppose it’s something that has been working well for us so far.
Donie would have to take a lot of the plaudits for that. Again, it’s nothing too radical, just making sure you tackle properly, get your turnovers, and that all makes a difference on a game day.
MF: How did you feel about playing wing-forward against Donegal?
KH: It was something that took me a little bit by surprise. He had mentioned it to me a while ago, in fairness, he had been thinking about it. It was a big challenge for me, took a bit of getting used to, but I don’t think it went too bad.
MF: What were your instructions?
KH: Play wing-forward [laughs]. I think everyone was expecting it to be more complicated but James just said, ‘Go out and play it as you see it’. There was no major strategy to it. Against teams like Donegal positions mean very little anyway.
I enjoyed it. When Tom [Cunniffe] got injured I went back into corner-back and was wondering, ‘what did I do wrong?’ [smiles].
MF: At what stage did you know Donegal were beaten?
KH: I remember looking up at the scoreboard at one stage and we were 2-8 to 0-4 up. I was surprised how far ahead we were.
We got a couple of breaks in the second half and Cillian [O’Connor’ got his few tap-ins. I suppose you just knew things were going well here, and there’s no coming back.