Belfast Telegraph

Our Caroline is keen to help new side Sirens sound out a big warning

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon will make her return to netball's British SuperLeague this evening in front of a capacity crowd of 4,000 and a live television audience.

O'Hanlon's Scottish Sirens franchise make their debut against fellow newcomers Wasps Netball at a sold-out Emirates Arena in Glasgow (7.15pm) on Sky Sports 2.

Scotland's first professional netball team is one of three new outfits that will be competing in an expanded 10-team SuperLeague this season.

They have been brought in along with the Coventry-based Wasps and Worcester-centred Severn Stars, with Yorkshire Jets having been jettisoned.

O'Hanlon, Northern Ireland's most capped international netballer, previously played for Tyneside-based franchise Team Northumbria for two seasons before opting out last year.

The European Player of the Year in 2010 was unveiled as one of four high-profile overseas signings by the new Sirens franchise last October and will be the only NI-based player in this year's competition.

O'Hanlon is joined at the Sirens by Jamaican giants Carla Borrego and Althea Byfield along with top Kiwi Ellen Halpenny, underlining the new set-up's serious intent to make a big impression.

Scotland captain Claire Brownie has been brought back from 2013 SuperLeague champions Team Bath to be the first Sirens skipper and will line up next to world-class centre O'Hanlon.

Domestically, O'Hanlon is on the verge of leading Larkfield to their fourth NI Premier League title on the trot in her 10th season as club captain.

Player of the Tournament as Northern Ireland won the Nations Cup in Singapore last winter, O'Hanlon hopes to lead the girls in green into next year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Having finished a superb seventh at Glasgow 2014, Elaine Rice's side will qualify for the event in Australia if they retain their place in the top 12 of the world rankings in the coming months.

O'Hanlon said: "It's exciting to be involved with this extremely professional Sirens set-up and I'm looking forward to playing with and against so many of the world's leading netballers over the coming months.

"With the Commonwealths hopefully on the horizon for Northern Ireland, this fresh SuperLeague experience can only benefit my own game.

"It will obviously be a very busy schedule with the Armagh Gaelic too along with work but I'm grateful for the opportunity to keep playing both sports to the highest level."

Recently shortlisted for Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, the multi-talented O'Hanlon remains one of Northern Ireland's best and busiest sportswomen. A triple All Star and former All-Ireland Player of the Year in ladies Gaelic, O'Hanlon supplemented her netball exploits last year by captaining Ulster to the inter-pro title.

She has skippered Armagh to two All-Ireland semi-finals in recent years and earlier this month inspired the Orchard County to their first ever victory over virtually invincible Cork.

Cork have won the last six All-Ireland titles and 11 in the past 12 seasons but were beaten 0-12 to 0-9 by O'Hanlon's Armagh in Division One of the National League. Bessbrook woman O'Hanlon combines her hectic sporting schedule with a demanding professional life, having recently converted from being a hospital doctor in Newry's Daisy Hill to working as a GP.

Now in her 16th inter-county season with Armagh Gaelic and a Northern Ireland netball team regular since the 2003 World Cup in Jamaica, the insatiable O'Hanlon wouldn't have it any other way.

Belfast Telegraph

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