INTERVIEW: LONG-SERVING MEARNS SHOWS NO SIGNS OF SLOWING DOWN

Crusaders midfielder Heather Mearns has been playing for the club for almost two decades but is as busy as ever in her involvement in the sport.

Mearns, whose day job is a civil servant, is also a Northern Ireland futsal international, plays for the British Army women’s team and is also involved in various coaching roles.

"We had a friendly in June for the international futsal and when the season ends in October then we will have more games, because we have the Euros coming up in May," explained the 33-year-old.

"It suits me well because when our season finishes locally, I then have games for the British Army team and I'll be with girls who haven’t been playing all summer, but I already have the fitness there.

"I’m getting a little bit older now so I’m trying to play as much as I can across as many platforms while I’m still in a position to do so.

"Now I’ve got my B licenses sorted and I’ve started coaching with the county excellence squad along with what I’ve been doing with Crusaders, I’ve been coaching the same team who are now 12 for the past six years - it’s a really rewarding role."

Mearns first joined the Crues, then named Newtownabbey Strikers, as a 14-year-old and has been a fixture in the team ever since, with just one year away from the club when she represented Linfield.

"We have shown a lot of belief in our meetings with Glentoran and Linfield recently, but losing out has been frustrating," she continued, before speaking of Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Glentoran in the County Antrim Cup final.

"When we scored the equaliser in the cup final I was convinced we were on top and were going to run out winners, but then the Glens got back in front and it felt like a sucker punch.

"We have suffered quite a few injuries in recent times and it has always been forward players, so we have struggled with our goal output a little bit.

"Morgan Beggs is playing for the Under-19s after surgery on her knee and before the season started we signed Megan Ingram from America, but she tore her ACL in our final pre-season friendly match.

"Megan was looking sharp and had been banging the goals in, so that was a massive loss for us and it means we have struggled to turn our good performances into goals.”

The Crues slumped to a disappointing derby defeat last time out in the league against Cliftonville, but now face the two clubs immediately below them in the standings.

"We didn’t play well in our derby with Cliftonville, and we were really disappointed with that,” added Mearns.

"But generally speaking, our level has improved in recent weeks and that was especially disappointing as it was a change to close that gap on them.

"We have shown we are capable of competing against the top teams and getting points off anyone, so we are targeting six from six against Comber then Derry and pushing on from there.

"Our next game against Cliftonville will be crucial as well in terms of our league position, but the Irish Cup semi-final coming up against Linfield is a huge game for us and we are confident we can get to another final.

"Our aim for the season is to get to a final and finish higher than we did last season - we have already achieved one of those goals.”

Tags:  Crusaders Strikers