Netball: End of the World for Carpenter's girls
Northern Ireland's netballers have missed out on a place at next year's World Cup in Australia after a heartbreaking weekend in Cardiff.
Kate Carpenter's team faced an uphill task to secure one of the two tickets to Sydney after agonisingly losing Friday night's opening game 45-44 to Scotland.
This year's European Championships doubled up as a regional qualifier for the 2015 World Cup, with the Republic of Ireland replacing England – already guaranteed a place at the finals.
The girls in green gave themselves a fighting chance going into yesterday's showdown with Wales by hammering their southern neighbours 84-25 on Saturday.
That thumping victory combined with other results meant a one-goal win would have been enough, though that was always likely to be a tough task in hostile surroundings.
Northern Ireland were also hit by injuries with regular goalkeeper Gemma Gibney not starting the game and captain Hannah Willis failing to finish it, resulting in an unfamiliar line-up.
With a partisan crowd behind them, Wales bounced back from an early deficit to lead 13-12 at the first break and were two up at half-time on a 25-23 scoreline.
As in the second quarter, Northern Ireland drew level in the third but from 30-30 finished the penultimate period 38-36.
They fell away slightly in the last as Wales pulled clear to win 51-43, retaining their European title in the process.
A two-goal win for Northern Ireland would have seen them crowned European champions for the first time ever.
Although Northern Ireland will be at next month's Commonwealth Games for the first time, not qualifying for next year's World Cup is a disastrous setback.
Wales and Scotland take the two European regional places.