Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Carpenter may be forced to reshuffle pack

Major doubt: Gemma Gibney is awaiting results of a scan

Northern Ireland captain Gemma Gibney appears a major doubt for the prestigious quadrangular tournament in Antrim at the end of the month after sustaining a possibly serious knee injury in training.

The goalkeeper is anxiously awaiting results of a scan but would be a big loss to new national coach Kate Carpenter for the matches against Botswana, Barbados and St Lucia in the inaugural International Festival of Netball.

However, Gibney wasn't much missed at club level on Friday night as Graduates eclipsed Laganside 83-26 with emergency goalkeeper Frances Campbell claiming Player of the Match.

Campbell, Gibney's partner in the defensive circle for club and country, and Niamh Cooper each moved back one position and formed a successful combination.

The pair proved effective in neutralising Laganside's attacks, turning over plenty of opposition ball, and for the second week running coach Madeline Mason experimented further forward.

Larkfield had the luxury of using Caroline O'Hanlon sparingly as they got their Premier League campaign underway with an 85-29 thumping of Causeway.

Ahead of captaining Carrickcruppen to victory in Sunday's Ulster Senior Championship quarter-final in ladies gaelic, Larkfield's long-serving skipper didn't even start the game.

The fit-again Neamh Woods initially filled in behind regular wing attack Laura Mason at centre, with the oldest two of the three Bowman sisters, Lisa and Kyla, paired in the shooting circle.

In the absence of Deborah McCarthy, Julie Whitten – fresh from the recent Junior World Championships – got a rare start at goalkeeper alongside last season's signing Cheryl Wilson.

One of the better teams outside the big three, Causeway have had a slow start to the season with a surprisingly narrow win over Bangor and this heavier than hoped for defeat by Larkfield.

Already the gap between the haves and have-nots is striking and depleted champions Belfast Ladies still had the capacity to notch up a 50-goal margin in defeating Donaghadee 69-19.

Former Northern Ireland coach Elaine Rice was reluctantly pressed into service as a sub in the absence of of experienced players Clar-Rois McGuinness and Sinead Smye, due to holidays.

Maire Toner returned from vacation in America but featured further out the court with last week's teenage debutant Rachel Moore retained up front alongside the legendary Noleen Lennon.

With Toner's older sister Fionnuala carrying an ankle injury, the resulting reshuffle saw Fionnuala Crosbie and Laura Lovett get game-time.

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