Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland land an early Cup blow in Singapore

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland came from behind to win the dress rehearsal of today's Nations Cup final in Singapore.

Opponents Papua New Guinea got off to a flying start and led the tournament favourites 11-4 at the end of the opening period but ultimately lost 47-35.

Julie Kimber's side weathered the early storm and responded superbly in taking the second quarter 19-9 to get their noses in front by half-time.

From there they never looked like losing and extended their advantage to double digits.

Northern Ireland go into today's decider against the same opposition with a 100 per cent record from the round-robin phase of the tournament.

However, Kimber will want her team to avoid another sluggish opening.

Captain Gemma Gibney acknowledged Northern Ireland's disappointing start and the need for a complete performance.

She said: "That has happened a few times in this tournament so we want to start really sharp tomorrow and lead from the front.

"They're very strong girls who use their body to hold their space, they're very agile and quick so we'll need to be at our best."

Kimber confirmed forward Kyla Bowman was unwell leading to her early withdrawal but praised the impact off the bench of her younger sister Jenna, who scored 29 goals.

Northern Ireland are very strong in the back circle, with Gibney augmented by experienced defender Fionnuala Toner.

The third survivor from the team which won the 2009 Nations Cup is Northern Ireland's most capped player Caroline O'Hanlon.

O'Hanlon is a key figure in the middle of the court and PNG will be well warned after her imperious play yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph

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