Liam’s Labour of Love

Liam Higgins took the managerial reins in Ballina following the departure of Tommy Lyons to join John O’Mahoney with the Mayo senior team at the end of 2006.     Liam, who is the principal of the Scoil Padraig national school in Ballina, served as a selector with Tommy Lyons when Stephenites won the All-Ireland club title in 2005 so he knows the Ballina set-up like the back of his hand.   ‘When Tommy (Lyons) stepped aside last year I thought I had something to offer so I took it on and so far it has worked out fairly well’ he told the People on Monday.   Liam says that Ballina were slow to start this season but as the year progressed, the performances became better and better.    ‘We began very slowly and were beaten by Charlestown in the first round of the Mayo Championship. However as the year went on we improved and we played some good football in the Mayo semi-final (against Ballaghaderreen) and in the final (against Charlestown). Remember we were missing Ronan (McGarrity) and David Brady earlier in the year and that was a factor in our slow start’ he said.    Liam Higgins says that although Ballina played fairly well against Tourlestrane in the semi-final they did not press home their advantage when they were on top.    ‘Tourlestrane were a very tough nut to crack. They were a hard team to break down and when we did get on top we did not press home our advantage, but thankfully we got there in the end’, he said.    Liam is expecting  a very tough challenge from St. Brigids on Sunday. ‘We know how good Brigids are. They are  Roscommon champions three years in a row and are the reigning Connacht champions.    ‘Any team with the likes of Frankie Dolan, Karol Mannion and David O’Connor has to be respected and we are steeling ourselves for a huge battle, but  we have a lot of experienced players too so this is a game that looks very evenly matched to me’ he said.    Liam Higgins is hoping that the greater  experience of the Ballina players will stand to them on Sunday.    ‘We have plenty of experienced players and we have 12 or 13 players who have experienced winning Connacht and All-Ireland titles so that must count for something.    ‘We have had a great year in the club with our hurlers getting to the Connacht final last Sunday and we hope to go one better against Brigids on Sunday next’ he concluded.