Belfast Telegraph

Noleen's high five in bright start

By Richard Bullick

Acting captain Noleen Lennon led a stirring second half fightback by a Northumbria team with a strong Northern Ireland influence on the new British SuperLeague season's opening night.

The Tyne team predictably lost at champions Team Bath, 59-45, but shared the spoils after half time when five of the seven players on the court were Northern Ireland internationals.

The local contingent faced a real baptism of fire, with last season's strugglers Team Northumbria away to the most successful side in SuperLeague history.

By contrast, Northumbria finished bottom of the eight teams but have been bolstered by seven signings from here in a what looks likely to be a mutually beneficial link-up with Netball NI.

Playing at the elite level of the northern hemisphere's leading domestic competition should help prepare Northern Ireland's players for their first Commonwealth Games this summer.

By half-time it was looking ominous for the visitors at 30-16 but the introduction of two more Northern Ireland internationals helped Northumbria rally to take the third quarter 16-12.

Lennon, who played a season for Northumbria back in 2006, was joined in the initial line-up by Larkfield captain Caroline O'Hanlon and defender Fionnuala Toner. Niamh Cooper and Oonagh McCullough then came on to bring the local representation up to five.

Bath edged the final quarter 17-13 to leave second half honours even. Our girls now face Cardiff-franchise Celtic Dragons in their first home match in Newcastle on Saturday before travelling to face Yorkshire Jets in Leeds live on Sky sports on Monday night.

"It was a promising performance considering the number of SuperLeague debutants in this team's first competitive match," reflected O'Hanlon.

"Having to start against the champions in their own backyard was a test of character and we came through that quite well with strong team spirit and some pleasing passages of play.

"In spite of limited training time together and the highly pressurised environment, we've plenty of positives to build upon."

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