NI fail to impress as England clinch Euro crown
Northern Ireland's European Championships campaign ended with another disappointing defeat at Antrim Forum yesterday as an experimental English line-up snatched the title on goal difference.
Their 60-41 victory over the PwC Warriors in the final fixture was enough for England to retain the trophy at the expense of Wales, who had hammered the Republic of Ireland earlier.
Leaving without the silverware was tough for Wales, who had beaten the hosts 51-44 on Friday evening and then came close to eclipsing England the following day.
Wales led for most of that game but England grabbed a draw, which left them knowing what would be needed against a Northern Ireland side desperate to finish on a high note.
The girls in green began brightly but still trailed 16-11 after what had felt like a promising opening period and the more efficient England widened the gap in the second quarter to 14 goals.
With the game gone, Ryan rung the changes including giving captain Caroline O'Hanlon a rare rest, and England led 51-29 at the last break before the Warriors finished with a flourish.
Northern Ireland, with O'Hanlon back at centre, took the last quarter 12-9 but it wasn't much consolation at the end of a tournament which the hosts had gone into with high hopes of making history.
Their initial aim was to repeat previous victories over Wales in the last Euros in Cardiff, when Northern Ireland also beat Scotland to take silver, and subsequent World Cup qualifier.
Thanks to England leaving all their top players at home, the feeling was that an opening win would have set the Warriors up for a realistic chance of being crowned European champions for the first time.
Losing to Wales was a considerable blow to those ambitions and the hosts subsequently came up well short against England's next generation of stars.
Northern Ireland's only win was Saturday's underwhelming 53-19 victory over a Republic team making up the numbers in the top section due to Scotland controversially opting out.
The result secured what were, in the circumstances, meaningless bronze medals but it was a far from polished performance from the Warriors against poor opposition.
Only goalkeeper Rebecca McCullough, the NI Under 21 captain, and teenage forward Frances Keenan, who picked up their first senior caps, will remember a forgettable game with any affection.