Bowman's World Cup injury woe a problem for NI coach Ryan
Northern Ireland's Netball World Cup hopes have suffered a serious setback with star shooter Lisa Bowman being ruled out of next month's tournament through injury.
The 30-year-old Magherafelt ace damaged her ankle badly in training and an MRI scan has confirmed fears of a fracture for the former Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year winner at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.
It is a bitter blow for the towering forward, who also missed the last World Cup which Northern Ireland qualified for, Singapore 2011, due to a maternity break.
To her credit, Bowman, who works as a Schools Officer for Netball NI, has vowed to stick around and try to help the girls in green qualify for the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town.
In the short-term, however, Bowman's absence creates a huge headache for coach Dan Ryan given Northern Ireland's reliance on Bowman's prolific feats and formidable physical presence.
She scored 46 goals from 53 shots as Northern Ireland defeated Wales 58-36 at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to claim their highest ever finish of seventh in a major tournament.
Bowman's sharp-shooting was key to Northern Ireland qualifying for last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, bagging all but two of the goals in the decisive 35-33 victory over Barbados.
She then had a good tournament in Australia as Elaine Rice's side finished eighth, ahead of home nations rivals Scotland and Wales.
With Northern Ireland's 2011 World Cup captain Noleen Lennon, who could play at either end of the court, now retired from international netball, Bowman was set to be an absolutely key figure for the Warriors in Liverpool.
Bedford-born former England Under 21 forward Shaunagh Craig, whose parents came from here originally, has declared for Northern Ireland ahead of this tournament.
Her inclusion last month in Ryan's squad of 12 is a big boost with 2013 Team Bath British SuperLeague finalist Craig earmarked to play goal attack as Bowman's partner in the shooting circle.
Craig and the emerging Ciara Crosbie of Belfast Ladies can play up top but Ryan will want to draft in a natural lead shooter in Bowman's absence.
The former Team Northumbria forward's replacement is expected to be announced by Netball NI over the weekend, with special clearance needed from the International Netball Federation (INF) so close to the tournament.
The Warriors squad departs next Wednesday for a pre-World Cup camp in Manchester, with their opening game of the tournament being against holders Australia on July 12.
Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon, who also skippers Bowman at NI Premier League champions Larkfield, expressed disappointment for her team-mate.
"This is a horrible blow for Lisa and all the girls are gutted for her, being ruled out of what would have been her first World Cup through injury.
"She has been a very important player for us in recent years so losing her is obviously a big setback but right now our thoughts are with Lisa herself.
"I know she's determined to bounce back from this injury and play a key role for Northern Ireland in the time ahead, including this autumn's European Championships," said O'Hanlon.
O'Hanlon's side have their final run-out at home today when they play Isle of Man at Lisburn Racquets (11am).