Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's newcomers can light up Netball World Cup: O'Hanlon


Grafter: Ciara Crosbie has earned her spot in the NI squad
Grafter: Ciara Crosbie has earned her spot in the NI squad
Caroline O'Hanlon

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon is backing the team's fresh faces to shine at the Netball World Cup, which begins in Liverpool this week.

Shooting trio Shaunagh Craig, Ciara Crosbie and Emma Magee are the three major tournament newcomers in Dan Ryan's Warriors squad of 12.

It's all change in the attacking circle for Northern Ireland since Gold Coast 2018 with Lisa Bowman being injured and her sister Kyla and Scottish-based doctor Oonagh McCullough having opted out.

The elder Bowman was to have been the sole survivor up front but her unlucky break has seen Noleen Lennon, now Armstrong, reverse her international retirement to play a third World Cup.

With Lennon only recently returned, Ryan has had the challenge of developing permutations quite quickly, compounded by the absence of first-choice wing attack Michelle Drayne.

Drayne has been sidelined for the past few weeks with torn ankle ligaments and is battling to be fit for Friday's opening game against Australia.

So world-class centre O'Hanlon hasn't had the familiar range of forwards but believes Northern Ireland's attacking game is shaping up promisingly.

She said: "There's definitely a fresh feel to it and it's exciting to see combinations coming together. I suppose it's untested but things have been going really well in training and the potential is there.

"Shaunagh Craig is new to us but she's come through the English system and has SuperLeague experience so knows what is required at the elite level.

"Emma Magee is a great young player, she's so fast and has real flair, and I'm excited to see how she goes at the World Cup.

"Injury ruined her 2017 World Youth Cup in Botswana when she was Under-21 captain but I was impressed watching her lead them to European medals last year in Antrim.

"Ciara Crosbie has had to really earn her position, having been disappointed and probably unlucky to miss out on selection for the Commonwealths.

"The work she has put in away from the court to get herself in such condition is testament to her. She really deserves her spot.

"Some of us have been around a long time and we need new players pushing through like Michelle Magee did at Gold Coast last year, which was a big bonus.

"She went to Australia as an unknown schoolgirl, seven years younger than anyone else, but brought freshness and a youthful fearlessness and really made her mark."

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