Amy McGivern targets silverware double with Crusaders and Down

The Strikers begin their Sports Direct Premiership campaign against Glentoran this weekend

Amy McGivern (centre)
Amy McGivern (centre) has a busy summer of sport ahead with Crusaders and Down (Mark Marlow / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

CRUSADERS Strikers’ midfielder Amy McGivern is hoping to do the double this year.

McGivern was an All-Ireland junior title winner with the Down ladies’ footballers last August in Croke Park and this weekend will be part of the side bidding to reach a provincial final at intermediate level when the Mourne county take on Antrim.

A crack at the All-Ireland intermediate series will follow later in the summer, while Crusaders will begin their Sports Direct Women’s Premiership campaign this weekend with a visit to Glentoran.

Having finished third last season, what will the dual-code player be looking at to improve this time around?

“We finished really strong last season so I don’t think it was about making wholesale changes for us in pre-season.” Said McGivern.

“We ran Cliftonville close in the standings and in fact we beat them twice, so we are full of confidence heading into the new campaign.

“We have two or three new signings, but overall, we have quite a settled squad which I think will work to our benefit.

“It is a young squad so it’s about building on that with experience and there is no better place to start than on Sunday.”

The Strikers may be just beginning their league campaign this weekend, but they have already limbered up, thanks to the earlier introduction of the League Cup and the Avenir All-Island Cup in the calendar.

They reached the semi-finals of the League Cup but were surprisingly defeated by Premiership newcomers Lisburn Rangers last week, but McGivern is not looking too far ahead.

“Of course it is about taking one game at a time.

“We are glad of having a few games under our belts at this stage because as we saw last year, it can take us a few games to get started.

“The All-Island Cup has been a big ask given we are playing the competition against sides from the south who are already into their league campaign, but we have acquitted ourselves well with one win from two and qualification is very much on the agenda.” McGivern continued.

“We do notice the games are very physical and that is a trait of the southern football league and something that will hopefully improve amongst the northern sides as our league develops and becomes more professional.”

Heading into this Sunday’s game McGivern is in no doubt of the challenges that lay ahead.

“You always know what to expect from a Glentoran side” she said.

“They are an excellent side and I think the amount of trophies they have won over recent years would back that up.

“We seem to usually play them towards the end of the season, so it’s something different now, but it would be great to go out and get the three points on the board.”

It is not just the immediate future that McGivern wants to discuss either. Looking into the distant future somewhat, the midfielder also opens up on the part she and the other players in the league can play in becoming role-models for young girls.

The girls’ game has expanded exponentially of late, with academies associated with the senior sides popping up all over the country and pitches and sports halls full of young girls wanting to be the next McGivern or Marissa Callaghan.

“It is just amazing to see how many girls are playing the sport now.

“Not too many years ago they would have run away from football, but now there is a popularity in the sport.

“If you see the crowds growing at international and club games you can see the seeds that were sown five or 10 years ago are starting to grow and we all hope that continues because it is brilliant to see.”