Belfast Telegraph

Girls dig deep and hold on to take silver medal

 

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland's netballers showed remarkable resilience in clinching European Championship silver medals yesterday in Cardiff for only the second time.

The girls in green had to dig incredibly deep in somehow holding on for a 46-45 win over Scotland after having two players sin-binned in a frenetic final quarter.

Goalkeeper Gemma Gibney got two minutes for obstruction and captain Caroline O'Hanlon later followed for deliberate offside as Northern Ireland finished with just six players on court.

Elaine Rice's side have shown fantastic character throughout this tournament, getting over the line by the minimum margin in exceptionally tight games against Wales and Scotland.

Last Thursday's 47-46 upset of hosts Wales had opened up the prospect of O'Hanlon's team repeating their 2012 runners up place behind perennial champions England.

Any dreams of being crowned continental champions ended with Friday night's predictable defeat by England but the crunch clash was always this showdown with Scotland.

Northern Ireland have a strong record against the Scots but the Thistles had shown fine form in Cardiff, putting up a good fight against England before overcoming Wales.

Scotland led 12-11 after the opening period but a very strong second quarter saw Northern Ireland go in 26-21 ahead at half-time and they were still four up at the last break.

However, the sin-binnings of Gibney and O'Hanlon left Northern Ireland's backs against the wall and Scotland drew level, leaving Lisa Bowman to nail the winner with her captain off the court.

It was a wonderfully nerveless long-range shot from the towering Bowman, who had also netted the winner in the opening game against Wales. She scored 39 goals yesterday and was named Player of the Tournament.

On Saturday morning, Northern Ireland had triumphed 58-46 in their one-off Test against Fiji as Rice utilised her full squad of 12 after a tight turnaround from the England game.

This has been a wonderful week for Rice and her players with wins over three teams ranked in the world's top 12 which should push Northern Ireland higher than their current 10th place.

Northern Ireland will face Scotland and Wales again in January in a World Cup regional qualifier in Perth when the three teams will battle it out for two places at the 2019 tournament.

Northern Ireland (v Scotland): G Gibney, N Lennon, F Toner, C O'Hanlon (capt), M Drayne, K Bowman, L Bowman. Subs: O McCullough for K Bowman, N Cooper for Gibney

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