O’HANLON NETS GAMES BOOST
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
WORLD-class centre Caroline O'Hanlon has admitted to feeling enormous relief following official confirmation that her Northern Ireland netball team has qualified for next year's Commonwealth Games.
The Bessbrook woman, who captains Lisburn club Larkfield, has played at senior international level for over a decade but the Commonwealths would be an exciting new experience, for the girls in green have previously failed to make the cut.
“As a major multi-sport event, the Commonwealths are the nearest thing netball has to the Olympics so it's something those of us who have been around for a long time have really had our hearts set on," she said.
“Obviously no-one can count chickens so far in advance regarding their personal participation, especially with a new coach coming in from New Zealand, but confirmation of Northern Ireland's place at Glasgow 2014 is a enormous relief to the players and a big boost for the sport here.
“Qualification is based on world ranking at a cut-off point and, with netball strength concentrated in Commonwealth countries and Scotland getting in automatically as hosts, that meant being no lower than 11th.
“We've done well in recent years but with so few fixtures since the last World Cup to pick up ranking points, our position had become vulnerable and our fate was out of our own hands after finishing third in June's European Championships.
“Certain results at the subsequent Pacific Cup could have seen us edged out but thankfully we weren't overhauled. The news has created a big buzz ahead of the domestic season starting this Friday night."
In the next few weeks, the multi-talented O'Hanlon hopes to combine leading Larkfield's NI Premier League challenge with captaining Carrickcruppen to glory in the Ulster Senior Club Championhip in ladies Gaelic.
That juggling act is nothing new for the Daisy Hill Hospital doctor and the 29-year-old's busy schedule seems set to continue indefinitely with both the Armagh ladies Gaelic and Northern Ireland netball teams aiming high in 2014.
There is an outside possibility O'Hanlon could be joined at the Games by another Newry girl, Mary Adegbamiye, who was first choice centre for the NI Under 21 team that finished 13th at last month's Junior World Championships.
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