Heatley heaps praise on team-mates after firing Crues to Shield success

Crusaders players celebrate after lifting the Charity Shield after Saturday's NIFL Charity Shield Final at Windsor Park Picture: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press.
Alex Mills at Windsor Park

NIFL White Ribbon Charity Shield: Linfield 0 Crusaders 2

GOAL hero Paul Heatley preferred to shrug off the plaudits and heap the praise on his team-mates after their White Ribbon Charity Shield win over Linfield at Windsor Park on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Heatley required merely two minutes after being introduced to the action in the second half – replacing Johnny McMurray – to hit a wonder goal, looping the ball over the outstretched gloves of goalkeeper David Walsh.

Then, four minutes later, Heatley turned provider. He gobbled up a pass from another substitute, Jude Winchester, dropped the shoulder before picking out new boy Rory McKeown, who drilled the ball low into the net.

The game wasn’t high on the priority of Linfield boss David Healy. He is more concerned about Thursday night’s Europa League third round clash with FC Zurich in Switzerland – the Blues trail 2-0 from the first leg – so, not surprisingly, he made a staggering 11 changes to the team that featured in midweek.

It still took a classic strike from Heatley to break them down. He may be in the twilight of his career, but it still one of the best in the business.

“It’s a team game and none of it would be possible without the other guys in the side,” said modest Heatley.

“It was nice to get a run out and it was great to see the ball going into the top corner – sometimes those finish in row Z.

“To be honest, I was bursting to get involved because it was a really open game. It was set up for an attacking player to come on, regardless of who it was.”

Heatley insists Winchester must take credit for his part in the second goal, adding:

“Jude came on and bossed the midfield for the last half hour. He sent a lovely wee slide-rule ball to me. I didn’t have too much to do except cut it back for Rory. Credit to him, he made 50 yard-run to get there.

“The game was just what we needed ahead of the new season. It was feisty enough in places – it's not in the nature for teams to hold back in the Irish League. It was a really positive performance from us, especially getting the win.

“It was free-flowing, the referee let things go at times. We’ll certainly take an awful lot out of it. There were a lot of changes to both teams, so it shows the strength on both squads. They certainly were not weakened in any shape or form.”

Even though he was instrumental in his team’s win, Heatley believes everyone should now get behind Linfield as they attempt to become the first Irish League side to make the group stages of any European competition.

“We’ll all be rooting for Linfield to reach the group stages of one of the European competitions,” beamed Heatley.

“They are not only putting themselves on the map, but they are putting the entire Irish League on the map – they can make the League proud.

“Rivalries will be set aside in the coming weeks. We’ll all be cheering on Linfield to achieve something really great for this League, which is improving year on year.”

LINFIELD: Walsh, Newberry, Millar, Cooper, Stewart, McKee (Mulgrew 67), Devine (Vertainen 67), Pepper, Quinn (Shields 22), A Clarke (M Clarke 67), Palmer (McClean 67).

Unused subs: Johns, Archer.

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns (Forsythe 46), Robinson (Hegarty 88), Weir (Winchester 46), Lowry, Kennedy, Lecky (Clarke 58), Ebbe, Larmour, McKeown, McMurray (Heatley 66).

Unused subs: O’Rourke, Pauley.

REFEREE: Christopher Morrison.