Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Mayo hurling manager Derek Walsh has confirmed the make-up of his backroom team for the 2021 season. Picture: David Farrell Photography

Mayo hurling manager Derek Walsh has confirmed the make-up of his backroom team for the 2021 season. He has also confirmed that his Ballyhaunis clubmate Keith Higgins intends to join up with the hurlers this year, following on from his retirement from inter-county football last week.

Walsh had his backroom team ratified by the county board this week and has retained a number of the coaches and selectors who were part of Mayo’s run to the Nicky Rackard cup final in 2020. Liam Hodgins is staying on as the team’s primary trainer, while Tom Philips and David McConn are also back on board, Philips as logistics manager and player liaison and McConn as Covid offer.

Tullamore native Damien Fox has been brought in as a coach. Fox had some involvement on match-days with the panel last year but is set to take on a more central role in 2021. Fox is a former Offaly and London inter-county hurler and has had a long and varied coaching career that has included stints managing the Laois seniors, the Offaly minors and clubs in Westmeath, Laois, Carlow and Dublin.

Tooreen clubmen Johnny Cunnane and Nicholas Freyne have also joined up with the backroom team as selectors.

Meanwhile, Walsh has confirmed that Keith Higgins plans to join up with the hurlers for the 2021 league and championship. Higgins signalled his intent to return to the hurling camp in an interview with Game On on 2fm on Thursday night and Walsh said Higgins, who was part of the Rackard-winning team of 2016, will be a major boost to the panel.

“We saw last year in the club championship, he’s still one of the best hurlers in the county. He’ll be a huge addition to us. He’s in great shape,” said Walsh.

There have been no retirements from the Mayo hurling panel this off-season. Mayo carried a tight panel of 26 for last year’s Nicky Rackard cup and Walsh plans to extend that to 32 for the upcoming National League. The panel is yet to be fully finalised but there will be some additions to last year’s squad.

“We’ll have seven or eight new faces and we should have a strong enough panel hopefully,” said Walsh, who has been unable to gather his panel together in person yet.

“The lads are doing four days per week programmes. Darragh Finn has them on the programmes, basically whatever stuff they have at home. It’s all on their own at the minute, which is the way it has to be.

“I think they’re itching to get out now at this stage with the stretch coming in the evenings but we just have to wait until the time is right and it’s safe to do so.”

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