Northern Ireland hand former England star Shaunagh Craig a second chance at World Cup spot
Northern Ireland have pulled a rabbit from the selection hat ahead of this summer's Netball World Cup with the inclusion of Shaunagh Craig in their 12-woman squad.
Craig is uncapped by Northern Ireland but has plenty of experience at the top level as she makes the switch from England, by whom she was previously called into a World Cup squad.
However, she didn't make the tournament after suffering a heartbreaking injury just two days before the team were due to fly out and she has now been handed a second chance to play in a World Cup by Northern Ireland.
The 26-year-old qualifies to play for Northern Ireland through her mother, originally from Strabane, and is now registered with Belfast Ladies.
She won European titles with England's Under 17, Under 19 and Under 21 sides and was called into the senior panel back in 2014.
Having also won the Superleague title with Team Bath in 2013 and voted Supporter’s Player of the Year for the club in 2015, Craig is expected to play goal attack, taking over from experienced duo Kyla Bowman and Oonagh McCullough who have both stepped down from international duty after last year's Commonwealth Games.
The team will once again be led by the formidable Caroline O’Hanlon, fresh from victory with Manchester Thunder in the recent Vitality Superleague Final. Other Superleague netballers Michelle Drayne (Saracens Mavericks) and Fionnuala Toner (London Pulse) bring also their experience to the group.
Head Coach Dan Ryan said: "There were a number of key retirements from the squad after last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast so we've been working hard since December to rebuild the squad and I'm really pleased with the growth and improvements we have shown over the past six months.
"I am really excited by the final 12 we have selected to represent Northern Ireland in Liverpool. There is a nice balance within the team with a number of really experienced and accomplished performers that will provide us with great leadership, plus some fresh new faces and great young talent that has really stepped up to the mark."
They will meet Dan Ryan’s home nation Australia in their first game on the 12 July, before taking on Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe to complete their pool games.
"I can't wait to get stuck into some more hard work over the next six weeks and challenge ourselves in a number of test matches before seeing what kind of impact we can make at the World Cup."
"It's been an absolute pleasure working with the squad so far. They are all so eager, so willing to learn and it's been really enjoyable seeing that progress unfold each time we come together.“
This promises to be the most exciting World Cup yet with BBC Sport and Sky Sports covering all of Northern Ireland’s matches in July. Meanwhile Northern Ireland will be focusing on upcoming fixtures at home against England Men (22/23 June) and the Isle of Man (29 June) to fine tune their preparations prior to leaving for Liverpool.
Accountancy firm PwC Northern Ireland were recently announced as title sponsors for the Northern Ireland squad, meaning Northern Ireland will take the court in Liverpool as the ‘PwC Warriors’.
The Northern Ireland PwC Warriors
Caroline O'Hanlon (Captain)
Fi Toner (vice-captain)
Belfast Telegraph Digital