Belfast Telegraph

Coleman can shine as NI U17s aim to home in on Euro medals

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland are hoping to draw on home comforts when Antrim Forum hosts the Euro Under-17 Championships from tomorrow until Sunday.

The emerging girls in green will face favourites England, Scotland and Wales in the elite section with high hopes of bronze at least.

Compared to the highly successful senior side, Northern Ireland's age group record in recent years has been relatively disappointing but head coach Karen McVeigh has a strong squad.

The home nation's attack will be spearheaded by towering Kingsway star Dearbhla Coleman, a multi-talented sportswoman.

Currently Ulster Young Player of the Year in ladies Gaelic, Coleman won the equivalent award in NI netball last year and has titles at world level in handball.

One of her clubmates, Meabh McCambridge, is the daughter of ex-NI ace Helen, while there is a healthy spread of representation in a squad captained by Slemish College pupil Lauren Walsh.

Among the eight schools supplying players, Our Lady and St Patrick's College Knock lead the way with three and the 12 girls come from six different clubs.

Niamh Reel is the star turn in the Sacred Heart Newry team crowned Northern Ireland champions for the first time last week and Westside's Michelle Magee is also highly rated.

A Northern Ireland B team will compete in the development section which also features the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and Gibraltar, while Dubai are also here on an invitational basis.

Netball NI are streaming some matches via Facebook Live, with the Netball Europe event being backed by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

McVeigh's girls get under way against the English tomorrow (4pm) followed by Scotland on Saturday (3pm) and finishing with Wales (3pm) on Sunday.

NI U17s squad: Lauren Walsh (Slemish Coll, capt), Ruby McIlhinney (Friends), Maeve Blaney, Niamh Fiztpatrick, Maria McCann (all OLSPK), Clara Cromie, Aisling O'Kane (both Methody), Dearbhla Coleman, Meabh McCambridge (both St Ronan's), Michelle Magee (St Dominic's), Niamh Reel (Sacred Heart), Laura Mills (Lagan Coll).

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