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Class act O'Hanlon is out for Final glory

Netball

By Richard Bullick

Caroline O'Hanlon will make history this evening when she becomes the first player from Ireland to appear in netball's British SuperLeague final.

Northern Ireland captain O'Hanlon's Manchester Thunder face champions Wasps Netball in front of a capacity crowd of 7,500 at London's Copper Box, live on Sky Sports (5.15pm).

Powerful Wasps will be favourites to claim their third title on the trot but Thunder are eyeing up a hat-trick of their own against today's opponents.

Table-toppers Wasps finished six points clear of everyone else in this season's standings but two of only three losses in 18 league games were inflicted by Thunder.

In spite of doing the double over Wasps, Thunder had to settle for runners-up place after a poor run of three defeats in four fixtures in April.

However an away win at Surrey Storm stopped the rot and they then edged Team Bath 57-54 in a pulsating semi-final in the Thunderdome last weekend.

Thunder can take confidence from winning that titanic tussle against formidable Bath and should now go into the decider battle-hardened with that April wobble behind them.

"We'd gone off the boil but coming through such a tight game against Bath should stand to us, although Wasps have a different style," O'Hanlon said.

"Our semi-final was a very close contest of exceptional intensity and physicality, with momentum swinging back and forth. So it should prove perfect preparation for the final.

"Obviously Wasps are used to playing in, and winning, SuperLeague finals but we've beaten them twice this season so there's respect, but no fear factor.

"We've plenty of experienced SuperLeague players and internationals and we beat Wasps last season on Sky in front of a big crowd in Manchester Arena."

In the semi-final, SuperLeague Player of the Month for March, O'Hanlon, held her own in an absorbing battle with England skipper Serena Guthrie.

This time the Bessbrook woman's opposite number will be veteran England vice-captain Jade Clarke and their mid-court contest could be key to the outcome.

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