Belfast Telegraph

Bowman returns from injury woe to give NI's Euro mission a boost

 

Lisa Bowman
Lisa Bowman

By Richard Bullick

Star shooter Lisa Bowman is back in the Northern Ireland netball squad for the European Championships, which start at the Antrim Forum next Friday.

The Magherafelt goal machine had to miss this summer's World Cup after breaking an ankle in training a few weeks before the tournament, prompting veteran Noleen Armstrong to come out of international retirement to answer her country's call.

With Bowman back, Armstrong has hung up her green dress again, and veteran goalkeeper Gemma Lawlor is another notable absentee from Dan Ryan's squad of 12.

There are fears that former captain Lawlor may be about to officially call time on her playing career at the elite level at the age of 32 having been plagued by injury issues in recent years.

There is a third enforced change compared to the PWC Warriors World Cup squad as Tyrone Gaelic captain Neamh Woods has had to undergo surgery on a damaged finger.

The missing trio's places are taken by the very established Bowman and two uncapped players - Larkfield goalkeeper Rebecca McCullough and Belfast Ladies forward Frances Keenan.

McCullough, who will captain the NI Under-21s in their Euro campaign next month, travelled to the pre-World Cup camp in England at the start of July as injury cover. South Armagh native Keenan was also on the standby list for Liverpool and both may get their first senior caps against the Republic next Saturday.

The rest of the squad is along expected lines, with Bedford-born Shaunagh Craig included among the forwards despite having moved back to work in England after a year at Ballycastle's Corrymeela Centre.

Craig and Bowman will compete for the goal shooter spot in next Friday's crunch clash with Wales, with the rest of the starting seven appearing predictable.

Teenager Michelle Magee will replace Lawlor as first-choice goalkeeper with her elder sister Emma, Northern Ireland's big find of the World Cup, looking nailed on at goal attack.

Between them on the court, Ryan can call on his British Super League quartet of Fionnuala Toner, Niamh Cooper, captain Caroline O'Hanlon and Michelle Drayne.

SQUAD: Caroline O'Hanlon (capt), Fionnuala Toner (vice-captain), Rebecca McCullough, Michelle Magee, Niamh Cooper, Lisa McCaffrey, Michelle Drayne, Frances Keenan, Emma Magee, Ciara Crosbie, Shaunagh Craig, Lisa Bowman.

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