Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

League's lack of depth shown as Belfast Ladies blitz Banbridge

Missing player: Ciara Crosbie is away studying at university
Missing player: Ciara Crosbie is away studying at university

Champions Belfast Ladies got back to winning ways by blitzing Banbridge in a match which underlined the uncompetitive nature of too many Premier League games.

Beaten last time out by Larkfield, the title holders cruised to an 84-26 victory in spite of being without seven significant squad members.

Belfast Ladies were still missing skipper Noleen Lennon and veteran goalkeeper Clar-Rois McGuinness through injury while young guns Ciara Crosbie and Mary Carson are at university across the water.

Another promising player capped by Northern Ireland last month, Maeve McQuillan, is studying in Dublin and neither Micaela Diver nor Debbie Bleakley lined out against Banbridge in spite of having recently returned to action following maternity breaks.

So former national coach Elaine Rice was pressed into service at wing attack with youngster Rachel Moore again given chief shooter responsibility but Belfast Ladies still strolled to a landslide victory.

Meanwhile Larkfield and Graduates comfortably maintained their 100% records ahead of this Friday's top-of-the-table clash between them.

They easily saw off Dromore and Donaghadee respectively to emphasise the ongoing gulf between the established big three and everyone else in the league.

Such is the concentration of talent at the top clubs, the likelihood is that their second strings would probably be fighting it out for fourth place if admitted to the Premier League.

Both Belfast Ladies and Larkfield have enviable conveyor belts of young talent to supplement their all-international line-ups and star-studded Graduates have decent depth too.

Graduates coach Madeline Mason spoke out against the uneven nature of the Premier League when her team put over 100 goals on hapless newcomers Dromore at the start of the season and the mismatches have continued.

In the actual battle for fourth place, Laganside shocked Causeway with a 60-21 victory to assert their established standing as best of the rest.

Ambitious Causeway had high hopes of overtaking them this season but centre Anna Boyle admits the Ballymoney outfit were well beaten by the Lisburn club.

"We were reasonably confident coming into the game but it all went wrong," said the former athletics star.

The coming weekend will be busy for many of Northern Ireland's leading lights, starting with the eagerly-awaited domestic showdown between Grads and Larkfield.

Then on Sunday, Northern Ireland host the Republic of Ireland and British SuperLeague side Team Northumbria in a triangular tournament at Lisburn Racquets. Kate Carpenter's team take on the English outfit at 10am and then face the Republic at 2pm.

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