Belfast Telegraph

Caroline O'Hanlon hungry to end Larkfield's trophy woe

by Richard Bullick

Table-toppers Larkfield have reached Christmas with a 100 percent record in this season's Premier League having beaten both of the Belfast 'Big Two' in recent weeks.

They look well equipped for a first title triumph in three years after thumping champions Belfast Ladies and following up with a convincing victory over advance title favourites Graduates.

Larkfield's fantastic autumn means multi-talented captain Caroline O'Hanlon finishes the year as skipper of Northern Ireland's leading club sides in two separate sports.

In October, her Armagh champions Carrickcruppen lost by a single point in ladies gaelic's Ulster Senior Club Championship semi-final to one of the two Republic-based sides which contested the decider.

That effectively leaves Cruppen top of the pile in ladies gaelic in Northern Ireland and now Larkfield have ended 2013 in pole position in Northern Ireland netball.

Leading her respective clubs to such heights constitutes an incredible double for the 29-year-old double ladies gaelic All Star, who was crowned the European netballer of the year 2010.

She has captained Carrickcruppen since the club's adult ladies side was established almost a decade ago, is in her seventh season as skipper of Larkfield and has led both to historic highs.

O'Hanlon modestly deflects talk of her teams topping their respective trees this Christmas, pointing out that there has been no silverware won yet at provincial level.

"I'm exceptionally proud of both clubs but at the end of the day, Carrickcruppen missed out on a first Ulster final appearance and we're only half way through the netball season," she says.

"Two years ago, Larkfield were in the exact same position only to fall away after Christmas so we certainly won't count chickens this time.

"But we've a stronger side now and the hunger is there to win a first trophy since our double in 2010," says O'Hanlon, who is set to miss some matches in the second half of the season.

O'Hanlon is one of several leading Northern Ireland players poised to line out for Team Northumbria in the British SuperLeague from the end of January.

What makes O'Hanlon's sporting double life more remarkable is that up until this autumn she has successfully combined playing the two sports to the highest level with working full-time as a doctor.

However, she recently gave up her job in Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital to return to Queen's as a Masters student on the university's new Elite Athlete programme.

The Bessbrook woman still faces a very busy spring as she juggles SuperLeague netball with Armagh's National League campaign in ladies gaelic.

There is the possibility of a Northern Ireland netball tour to the Caribbean in February, while the ladies gaelic All Stars trip to Hong Kong is scheduled for the following month.

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