Little did Ruaidhrí Higgins think when he dealt with the media after Dundalk’s victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey back at the start of March that it would be his last match with the club he had represented in three different roles over the previous seven seasons.
While the Limavady man has spoken to the press at various times since taking up the position of Vinny Perth’s assistant at the start of 2019, the game in Donegal on March 6th was the first time he has dealt with the entire post match duties – a role which up to that point had been normally fulfilled by either Perth himself or first team coach John Gill.
The Argus was the last of the ‘Dundalk media’ to chat to Higgins on the night and perhaps the only one to bring up the possibility of games being postponed due to the possible threat of the Coronavirus.
Higgins admitted at the time that most of the chat in relation to it had been light-hearted. Little did he or any of us know how quickly matters would escalate.
It’s fair to say Covid-19 has changed the world and while there are bigger issues than football, it has changed the face of the game here as well. Some 13 weeks on the domestic league is still postponed with question marks hanging over whether it will return this year. Perhaps the most noteworthy change though came in early April when former Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny was fast-tracked into the position of Republic of Ireland senior team manager.
It soon emerged that he wanted Higgins as part of his team as Chief Scout and Opposition Analyst and the deal was officially concluded last month.
Looking back on a whirlwind few weeks, Higgins said he couldn’t have envisaged back then where he would be heading into the summer.
“I was actually thinking about that because I was looking back thinking what was my last game,” Higgins said when the match was raised with him last week.
“We were actually very good that night but I wouldn’t have believed that it would be my last.
“Obviously Stephen had been scheduled to take over the job on August 1st and then in early April he was announced as the manager. I think that was on the first Saturday in April and then the approach to the club for me was made at the end of the following week so it all happened very, very quickly. It’s strange but football is like that. One week you’re stuck in the middle of something and then the next week you’re in a different job or in between jobs.
“Looking back to that night though, it was a good performance and a nice way to end my time with the club I suppose.”
While Higgins and Kenny have been close for some time having first worked together on the latter’s arrival at Derry City 16 years ago, the 35-year-old admits it came as a huge surprise to him when the Ireland call came.
“Genuinely, it was a bit of a shock to me but he obviously sees value in what I bring to him.
“I’m delighted that he has brought me with him but I’m sad in a lot of ways too to be leaving Dundalk but when you have a chance to work on the international stage that is very, very hard to turn down.
“It’s a familiar role to me and it probably suits my skill set. I spent a few years doing it with Dundalk and I loved it but this is international football and there is a lot at stake so you have to make sure you get it spot on, get the opposition players spot on and get their systems of play spot on.
“We have a lot of time between now and the first couple of Nations League games so there’s a lot of time for all the staff to look into what we’re going to come up against and prepare accordingly.
“It’s a role that I’m excited to take on and I’m delighted to be part of the staff going forward,” he said.