Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games: One more win would seal super campaign

By Richard Bullick

They've already hit their target of finishing in the top eight and now Northern Ireland's netballers are seeking the perfect finish to their first Commonwealth Games campaign.

A win over Wales this morning would secure the girls in green a magnificent seventh place at a tournament where they are only 11th in the rankings.

Northern Ireland dug deep on Wednesday to break Scottish hearts and avenge a devastating defeat by the tartan team in May's European Championships.

Losing 45-44 to the Scots in Cardiff denied Northern Ireland qualification for next year's World Cup, though they had a second chance against Wales which wasn't taken.

Wales won by eight goals to clinch their place at Sydney 2015 but beating both of their Celtic cousins on the Commonwealth stage would soften that bitter blow.

With no World Cup on the horizon, the curtain could come down today on the distinguished international careers of skipper Hannah Willis and vice-captain Noleen Lennon.

It looks like the Scots and Welsh have effectively combined to drive these stalwarts into premature retirement but securing seventh at the Commonwealths would be a fairytale finish.

Alternatively, the hope will be that the success story of Glasgow 2014 might help persuade the top pair to continue under a new regime after a brief break.

Although not lacking courage, Northern Ireland will need a considerably improved performance from Wednesday's display against Scotland to tame the confident dragons.

Willis's side didn't fully fire in the Scottish clash but showed fantastic character, none more so than the prolific Lennon who found her range again after some misses in the third quarter.

"There was such strong belief we could come through against Scotland and we're delighted to have achieved our objective but the hunger is there to go out and get seventh," Lennon said.

"This is a very tight group of girls, some of whom have been together for many years, and now with the pressure off we want to do something special."

Northern Ireland can draw inspiration from the 2012 European Championships when they secured silver medals for the first time ever by beating Wales in a thriller 49-47 on the last day.

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