Belfast Telegraph

Belfast duo out to fire warning to reigning Premier queens Larkfield

By Richard Bullick

It's down to business as the new NI Premier League season gets under way this evening with an opening night clash between the traditional Belfast big two.

The pressure is on both Belfast Ladies and Graduates to show they can mount a credible challenge to champions Larkfield, who completed an emphatic hat-trick of titles last season.

The Lisburn side clinched a domestic double by crushing understrength Graduates in the Senior Cup final and they should be the team to beat this term too.

The champions have a star-studded squad who have benefited from stable leadership from the formidable duo of Denise Prue and Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon.

Former national coach Prue has been at the helm for more than a quarter of a century with world-class centre O'Hanlon club captain for close to a decade.

Banbridge have voluntarily dropped two levels after a difficult campaign last autumn and their place in the top-flight has been taken by Westside.

The west Belfast club face a baptism of fire this evening when they take on Larkfield.

After experimentation with teams using alternative venues, this season's Premier League will once again feature Friday double-headers at the traditional base of Lisburn Racquets.

The all-Belfast battle will get the action under way (7pm) with Larkfield facing Westside in the later game on the main court (8.30pm).

Laganside, Kingsway and Ballymoney-based Causeway are the other teams in the top tier.

The strong second strings of Larkfield and Graduates will be joined in Division One of the Senior League by Holywood, Donaghadee, Dromore, Portadown and Valley.

Bangor, who pulled of last season's Premier League, will join Banbridge, Derry and several reserve teams in Division Two with Antrim, Mid Ulster, Phoenix, PSNI and Clann Eireann featuring in the third division.

PREMIER LEAGUE (tonight, Lisburn Racquets): Belfast Ladies v Graduates (7pm), Larkfield v Westside (8.30pm).

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