Paul Heatley determined to pay back supporters after red card shame

Crusaders Paul Heatley
Crusaders Paul Heatley

Crusaders winger Paul Heatley declared he needs ‘no reminding’ of last season’s League Cup final.

Not only were his team thumped 4-0, but the 26-year-old had to watch most of the match on television after being dismissed following an out-of-character challenge on Cliftonville’s George McMullan.

When the clubs reconvene at Solitude on Saturday for this season’s showcase decider, sponsored by Wasps Solutions, Heatley will have only one thing on his mind - he wants make amends after ‘letting everyone’ down.

“It was probably the toughest time in my career, without a doubt,” admitted Heatley. “I remember it being such a long walk back to the changing room.

“I wasn’t allowed to leave the area, so it gave me time to reflect on my idiocy.

“I sat with my own thoughts for a while and watched the rest of the final on a TV.

“It was the lowest point of my time with Crusaders so far and I feel I owe the club and our fans. I actually spoke to the manager about it,” he added.

“I told him Saturday’s final is a chance to repay those people who have shown faith in me and stuck by me at Seaview.”

Heatley, who joined the Crues from Carrick Rangers in 2012, is now on the hunt of his first senior medal and he is determined to achieve his goal.

“I look back on that red card as a test of character,” he added. “I like to think I learned from it. My form has been good this season and I’m eager to help Crusaders win the first trophy of the campaign.

“Personally, I’ve yet to win a medal during my time with Crusaders so that’s an added incentive for me.”

With a bumper 4,500 fans shoehorned into Solitude, Heatley is expecting another full-blooded North Belfast derby.

The Reds earned home advantage on the toss of a coin.

“It’ll be massive game and a great atmosphere,” he said. “Cliftonville are a really good side, they won the league title last season and we respect them.

“At the same time we have to focus on our strengths and take the game to them.

“We’ve played really well against Cliftonville this season. We beat them at Solitude and were unlucky not to win the Boxing Day derby, so we are going into the game with bags of confidence.

“It’s not about revenge or anything spiteful like that in terms of what happened last time. I reckon I have to put things right - I’m determined to make amends.

“It’s also a great opportunity of landing a trophy,” he added.

“Having lost ground to Linfield after our draw at Warrenpoint, it’s going to take something special now for us to claw back their big lead at the top of the Premiership.

“We’ll certainly try to keep the pressure on them, but the reality is the League Cup and the Irish Cup are now our best hope of gaining silverware this season.”