Belfast Telegraph

Defeat for Northumbria spoils Noleen Lennon's birthday party

By Richard Bullick

Noleen Lennon's big birthday turned into a Northumbria nightmare as the Tyne team couldn't cope with the Celtic Dragons' fire in Wales.

The Northern Ireland legend would have loved to celebrate turning 30 by helping Northumbria end their run of five fixtures without a win in the British SuperLeague.

But the Cardiff franchise spoiled Lennon's party by inflicting Northumbria's worst defeat of the current campaign as they lost 77-41 to a side they beat at home last month.

That 62-52 win in Newcastle was Northumbria's first SuperLeague success under Kate Carpenter and the first of three consecutive victories which briefly put last season's bottom team joint top of the table.

However since Northern Ireland's successful tour to the Caribbean, Northumbria have failed to taste victory, a home draw with Yorkshire Jets punctuating a run of defeats.

They will hope to get back to winning ways in Friday night's Sky televised clash with strugglers Loughboro Lightning, though hopes of a top four play-off place now appear remote.

Northumbria should be boosted for that match by the return of first choice centre Caroline O'Hanlon who has missed the last three games due to GAA commitments.

The dual sports star sustained an ankle injury playing for Queen's University in Saturday's O'Connor Cup final but is expected to be fit for selection.

At face value, Northumbria's heavy defeat in Cardiff might give Wales a psychological edge over Northern Ireland ahead of the European Championships in May.

A number of the same players are set to line up on the respective sides but Wales won't have the Dragons star shooter while Northumbria hadn't O'Hanlon or Northern Ireland captain Hannah Willis.

Wales were crowned European champions last year when they beat Northern Ireland and an experimental England line-up, but Carpenter's team believe they can make history this time.

In spite of recent Northumbria results, the SuperLeague experience gained by Northern Ireland's leading lights should stand to the girls in green at international level.

The benefits were already evident last month when Northern Ireland beat Barbados.

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