Belfast Telegraph

NI must be prepared for Welsh revenge mission, says O'Hanlon

 

On alert: Caroline O'Hanlon is ready to kick off the European campaign
On alert: Caroline O'Hanlon is ready to kick off the European campaign

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon knows Wales will be gunning for her PwC Warriors in this afternoon's European Championships opener at Antrim Forum (4pm).

The Welsh have scores to settle with their hosts having missed out on a place at this summer's World Cup thanks to a qualifier defeat by Northern Ireland.

O'Hanlon's girls in green also secured silver medals at the last European Championships in Cardiff after pipping the Welsh with a single-goal victory.

So Wales will have a point to prove, and whoever wins this crunch clash will fancy going all the way given Scotland's controversial absence and England's experimental line-up.

"We've had some cracking contests with Wales over recent years and this should be another very competitive encounter between familiar rivals, especially with so much at stake for both teams," said O'Hanlon.

"Whoever wins will be well placed to compete for the trophy, the result has significance for our world rankings with the sides so close together and games like this are a good measure of where we're at.

"Wales will come here hungry having had to sit and watch everyone else at the World Cup and probably feel that they owe us for that, and even the result at the previous Europeans.

"But we're really looking forward to this tournament too after the frustration of finishing a little lower than we wanted in Liverpool, because of falling just short in a couple of tight games.

"Our lack of fixtures between the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup proved costly, but with that recent tournament under our belts we want to put those lessons to good effect.

"We're also really looking forward to playing our first Test matches at home since June 2017 and having a partisan crowd behind us can make the difference.

"The World Cup captured people's imagination thanks to the high standard of netball, some thrilling games and so much television coverage so hopefully we'll get a good turnout (today).

"It's fair to say the timing of this tournament could have been better but we're fully up for the challenge. There are a few fresh faces since the World Cup and it's an exciting chance for them."

As well as uncapped pair Rebecca McCullough and Frances Keenan, Dan Ryan's squad of 12 also includes fit-again forward Lisa Bowman, who netted that winner against Wales in Cardiff.

Ryan's only close selection call for today's opening game would appear to be between Bowman and Shaunagh Craig as starting goal shooter, but both will likely play an important part.

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