Keith Higgins stars for Mayo as they beat Tyrone to take Nicky Rackard Cup

Dual star scores seven points and wins man-of-the-match award at Croke Park

Keith Higgins lifts the Nicky Rackard Cup after the victory over Tyrone at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Keith Higgins lifts the Nicky Rackard Cup after the victory over Tyrone at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Mayo 2-27 Tyrone 1-14

Eight months after coming up short with Mayo in the All-Ireland football final, and seven since retiring from the big ball game, Keith Higgins captained his county to the Nicky Rackard Cup title at Croke Park on Saturday.

The 36-year-old dual star led by example too, with seven points and a man-of-the-match display to secure the county’s second title at the grade, matching their 2016 win.

The big win capped a terrific campaign for Mayo, who were the dominant force throughout and made up for last year’s final loss to Donegal.

Higgins’s decision to focus exclusively on hurling this year has clearly benefited Mayo and he showed his full range of skills in this decider, pointing off both sides, creating a penalty and hitting a crucial second-half point immediately after Tyrone’s goal.

Mayo’s Shane Boland and Jason Coyne celebrate after the win over Tyrone in the Nicky Rackard Cup Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Mayo’s Shane Boland and Jason Coyne celebrate after the win over Tyrone in the Nicky Rackard Cup Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Cathal Freeman was on fire for Mayo too, initially playing in a deep lying role to provide a stable platform in the middle third and finishing with 1-4, all from play.

Mayo had 11 different scorers in total and boss Derek Walsh was able to unload his bench in the second half, allowing Jason Coyne, Brian Morley and Oisín Greally to come on and snatch scores.

Tyrone had ex-Antrim dual star CJ McGourty in their ranks and the former All-Ireland club football title winner with St Galls ended up in goals for a period after their goalkeeper was sin-binned.

But not even McGourty or top scorer Damian Casey, who struck 0-9, could halt Mayo’s march.

Seán Regan struck Mayo’s first goal in the fifth minute after a turnover in the Tyrone defence, helping them to lead by 1-15 to 0-5 at half-time.

Freeman struck their second following a powerful run through the middle in the 45th minute, shortly after Conor Grogan’s goal for Tyrone which didn’t prompt the revival the Red Hands had hoped.

MAYO: B Douglas; C Daly, M Morley, S Coyne; G Nolan (0-1), D Kenny, C Henry; J Cassidy, S Kenny (0-1, free); C Phillips (0-1), C Freeman (1-4), S Regan (1-3); K Higgins (0-7, one , one 65), A Phillips (0-3), S Boland (0-3, two frees).

Subs: B Hunt for Cassidy (22-31 mins), P McCrann for Cassidy, J Coyne (0-1) for C Phillips (both 47), B Hunt for M Morley (58), B Morley (0-2) for A Phillips (61), O Greally (0-1) for Boland (67).

TYRONE: C McElhatton; J Kerr, D Rafferty, SP McKernan; L Devlin, C Kearns (0-3), C McNally; C Lagan, M Little; C Grogan (1-0), B McGurk (0-1), C Ferguson; R Weir, D Casey (0-9, five frees), CJ McGourty.

Subs: T Morgan (0-1) for Fergus (31), D Begley for McNally (h/t), P McHugh for McKernan (36-38), S Óg Grogan for Weir (44), S Donaghy for Devlin (51-52), S Donaghy for Little (64).

Referee: R Fitzsimons (Offaly).

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