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With Euro 2022 over, a return to reality for Northern Ireland star Julie Nelson in Mid Ulster


Julie Nelson will be transitioning from playing at the Euros to taking on Mid Ulster Ladies

Julie Nelson will be transitioning from playing at the Euros to taking on Mid Ulster Ladies

Julie Nelson will be transitioning from playing at the Euros to taking on Mid Ulster Ladies

History-maker Julie Nelson will make the transition from playing in front of over 30,000 against a team that went on to become European champions to a very different stage tonight.

If anything, though, her hunger for success when she leads out Crusaders Strikers for their Electric Ireland Women’s Challenge Cup clash with Mid Ulster Ladies will be greater than it was against England because of the ultimate end goal.

One of the two other all-Premiership clashes in the last-16 of the competition has fallen to Covid-19. Derry City Women have requested a forfeit of their game against Cliftonville Ladies after seven positive cases in the club.

Nelson experienced the high of becoming the first player to score for Northern Ireland at a major women’s tournament when she netted in the 4-1 defeat to Norway, and also claimed another record by becoming the oldest scorer in a European Championships at 37 years and 33 days.

Now just over four weeks later, she is quickly refocusing and it is club glory that is on her mind with the desire to go one step further after the Crues lost to Glentoran Women in last season’s Irish Cup decider.

“It still seems a bit surreal to me that we were actually at the Euros, even watching the Final last Sunday when we’d been home for two weeks,” said Nelson.

“I’m not the type of person who gets too high or too low. For me readjusting has been fine and I have enjoyed getting back to training with Crusaders.

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“It will be a change when we are going out to play Mid Ulster in front of a lot fewer people. It might take a while to get used to being back playing for our clubs.

“After making it to the Final last season which was great for the club, it gives us more motivation to go out this season and aim for that silverware because we talked about it last year and we got so close in two Finals and came away with nothing.

“I wasn’t at Crusaders the last time they won one of the major trophies, time ticks on and I would like to win more silverware in what time I have left.

“It’s special any time you do that, but as you come towards the latter stages of your career there is that extra little bit of motivation to win silverware and it would be nice for the club to do that too after being one of the main clubs in women’s football before Linfield and Glentoran won the League over the last number of years. It would be nice to have our club back up there winning trophies.”

In the other remaining all-Premiership game, Sion Swifts Ladies travel to Lisburn Ladies.

Holders Glentoran are also in Lisburn, to face last season’s Quarter-Finalists Lisburn Rangers, who currently lead the Electric Ireland  NIWFA Division One.

Ballymena United Women, who top the Electric Ireland NIWFA Championship after going unbeaten in their first nine games of the season, have home advantage against Linfield Ladies.

Eight teams from outside the Premiership join the top flight clubs and at least three will make the Quarter-Finals. Larne Ladies, second in the Championship, host Craigavon City Ladies who lead Division Four. St James’ Swifts, also from the Championship, face Division Three Antrim Rovers Ladies and Strabane Athletic Ladies, the lowest placed team left in the competition, are at home to Division One Ballyclare Comrades Ladies.

FIXTURES: Ballymena United Women v Linfield Ladies, Derry City Women v Cliftonville Ladies, Larne Ladies v Craigavon City Ladies, Lisburn Ladies v Sion Swifts Ladies, Lisburn Rangers Ladies v Glentoran Women, Mid Ulster Ladies v Crusaders Strikers, St. James’ Swifts Ladies v Antrim Rovers Ladies, Strabane Athletic Ladies v Ballyclare Comrades Ladies.

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