After a glorious 25-year playing career which has encompassed six league titles, Crusaders Strikers midfielder Nadine Murphy is hanging up her boots.
The 37-year-old has had her playing time this campaign restricted by injuries but is hopeful of taking to the field one last time for the Crues, who travel to basement side Comber Rec tonight in their final match of the season.
“I don’t see this as the end of something, it’s more a case of closing one chapter and starting another,” Murphy explained ahead of the final match of her career.
“I am going to continue in my coaching capacities and I’m not sure exactly what format that is going to take yet, but I am going to remain at the club.
“That means it isn’t a daunting prospect because I have plans and involvement in the sport anyway - all my life has been invested in the club and I don’t want that to change.
“The club has been in existence for 27 or so years - the team originally were based out of a Presbyterian Church in Rathcoole before amalgamating with Glenstar from Poleglass.
“That club then grew into Newtownabbey Strikers and now we are Crusaders Strikers.
“I have had an absolute ball with this club - playing in the Champions League four times, playing international football (for Republic of Ireland, as the Northern Ireland team had folded at that time).”
Murphy spent two years in the United States in a High School based in Cleveland, Tennessee, where she was the head boys’/girls’ football (soccer) coach but returned to Northern Ireland over the summer months to line out for the Strikers.
“I went out on a scholarship when I was 18,” she explained.
“I met my husband Tuda (Murphy - who would go on to play for a host of Northern Irish club sides including Glenavon and Portadown) and we had our first child there.
“I wanted to raise my family back home and continue my career and I was fortunate enough to be able to do that.”
With both parents being established in the world of football - Tuda was a distinguished international goalkeeper for the Cayman Islands - the Murphy children are also upcoming talents.
“Our eldest, Shea, started off doing dancing competitively but when he was aged eight something clicked with him and now he’s a diehard footballer,” joked Nadine.
“Then Luca, his younger brother, has always been really passionate about it since he was a lot younger - and no doubt Shea had an influence on that.”
The Strikes have been hugely successful over the years but with the emergence of Linfield and more recently, Sion Swifts, as domestic forces - the Crues have been in a period of transition.
“One of things I am most proud of about Crusaders is the academy and the younger players coming through,” added Murphy.
“Elaine Roden was one of the founders of the academy and then Danielle McDowell came on quite quickly after and has been the driving force behind it, along with Chloe (Archibald) and Heather (Mearns).
“There is the attraction of being able to train and play at Seaview - so the Crues must be credited - along with the hard work of all the individuals is really great.
“It was the Crues who approached the Newtownabbey Strikers initially asking about the amalgamation and that was a big positive right from the off.
“There has always been a really good attitude from them towards the women’s team, the media coverage they have driven towards us and giving us everything we need.
“There is a great working partnership there.”
Murphy works as a Community Sports Development Officer for the IFA and was a Primary School coach prior to that.
Her sporting lifestyle does not end there and she will remain playing Gaelic for her local side Eireog in Lurgan: “It’s a fourth division level so it doesn’t demand quite as much from my body!”
Across her career, Murphy has never received a red card but she is sure to receive a noteworthy send off of a very different kind from her Crues teammates tonight.