Belfast Telegraph

Home comforts can help Rice book Gold Coast passage

By Richard Bullick

The Northern Ireland netball team can effectively clinch qualification for next spring's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games by beating Barbados twice this week.

With all the leading netballing nations being Commonwealth countries, Northern Ireland must be in the top 12 of the world rankings at the official cut-off date of July 1 to qualify for the games.

If Elaine Rice's girls win the specially arranged quadrangular tournament which starts today at Lisburn Racquets, their tickets to Australia are all but assured.

The hosts should see off ambitious Singapore today (5.30pm) and the Republic of Ireland tomorrow (8pm), but beating Barbados will be a much harder task.

The teams meet in the closing round robin game on Wednesday by which stage both should have booked their places in Friday's decider (8pm), but it will still be a very meaningful match.

Both games have equal value in terms of those all-important ranking points and Rice reckons Northern Ireland must beat Barbados at least once this week to stay in the qualification frame.

With Barbados also still to secure qualification, they will have all to play for too, so Rice is hoping home comforts can help tilt the balance in her team's favour.

Squad: Caroline O'Hanlon (capt), Fionnuala Toner, Noleen Lennon, Gemma Gibney, Deborah McCarthy, Niamh Cooper, Neamh Woods, Michelle Drayne, Sarah Montgomery, Kyla Bowman, Lisa Bowman, Kirstie McCammon, Rachael Moore, Michelle Magee, Emma Magee.

Belfast Telegraph

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