The standout arrival in the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership this month has been Northern Ireland international Chloe McCarron, who has joined champions Glentoran.
The influential midfielder previously won three league titles with Linfield before joining Birmingham City last year but has since returned to Northern Ireland.
Having turned 23 earlier this year, McCarron was a star in the nation’s qualification for next summer’s European Championships and her signing was a significant coup for the Glens.
McCarron believes her familiarity with multiple international stars at The Oval throughout her career to date has allowed her to settle into the club instantly in mid-season.
She explained: “I was familiar with almost all the players at the club already, not only having played against them in the league but also through the international setup and the junior teams.
“I knew I would settle in quickly because of this and the staff around the club have helped in that regard too.
“I had great years at Linfield but I wanted to be in an environment where everyone has that drive to win - at Glentoran they hate losing and it is more about the team than individuals.
“Everyone had raved about how good the setup at the club is and the facilities are really professional - everyone is here to win and nobody is there just to take part.”
Not only are the Glens battling for domestic glory, but they will play Swiss champions Servette FC Chênois Féminin in the Champions League next month.
“The opportunity to play in the Champions League is a huge incentive,” McCarron continued.
“Playing in the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership is a big challenge but when you’re playing against league winners from elsewhere in Europe it that next step up.
“You have to prepare that little bit more and you know the quality that you are facing - you need to be on top of your game or you will be punished.
“I wanted to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone.”
McCarron’s stint in English football gave her a glimpse at life in the full-time game.
“What people don’t realise is how the step up to full-time football is much more than just the game itself,” she explained.
“It is not just the matches themselves but throughout the week there is so much going on behind the scenes that nobody sees that has an impact on matchday.
“You learn so much more off the pitch than you do on it, about how to prepare fully for games and training sessions, how best to recover and recuperate - you are constantly learning.
“England was a great experience for me in that sense and when I had to come back home, Glentoran was the next best thing in that sense.”
The move to the Glens also ensures she will be getting regular game-time ahead of the upcoming set of Northern Ireland fixtures.
“Everyone is talking about the finals next summer but a lot of people are forgetting we actually have games coming up in September, which is right around the corner,” said McCarron.
“My priority this month was to ensure I got minutes before then - firstly to be selected for the squad and the team, then to be able to push on from that.
“My aim is to be in the mix for next summer - there is so much competition for places and I know I’ll have to work hard to be involved.”
Champions Glentoran currently lead the way at the top of the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership but Cliftonville trail them by just one point while they have two games in hand.
McCarron believes this title race looks set to go to the wire: “The last time I played in this league was with Linfield and the title race went down to the final game and goal difference against Sion Swifts.
“There is the sense that this season could be similar because of the form of both teams - Cliftonville and ourselves.
“The key thing is to stay focused and take it one game at a time, to allow us to keep winning.”