Belfast Telegraph

Ryan shuffles his pack ahead of NI's World Cup glory quest

 

Sister act: Netball stars Michelle and Emma Magee
Sister act: Netball stars Michelle and Emma Magee

By Richard Bullick

Standby player Rebecca McCullough will be on the plane this evening when Northern Ireland's netballers leave Belfast for the Liverpool 2019 World Cup.

Larkfield's McCullough shared the goalkeeping duties with the returning Noleen Armstrong in last Saturday's 82-10 farewell friendly victory over Isle of Man.

First choice goalkeeper Gemma Lawlor was attending the wedding of 2011 World Cup team-mate Laura Mason, while teenage star Michelle Magee is carrying a knock but isn't believed to be a major doubt for the tournament.

However, having McCullough to call upon means head coach Dan Ryan won't have to rush Magee back or overload veteran Lawlor in the Warriors' warm-up matches over the next four days.

Northern Ireland play Barbados and England A in Manchester tomorrow and Friday before facing further friendlies against Trinidad and Malawi in Cardiff over the weekend.

Magee also sat out Antrim's Ulster Junior Championship Gaelic football final on Sunday, though sister Emma represented the Magees in Clones.

Warriors captain Caroline O'Hanlon was also in action for her county, but her top-scoring contribution of 1-3 couldn't save Armagh from defeat by Donegal in the Ulster Senior Championship showpiece.

However, Ryan will have breathed a sigh of relief that his skipper came through unscathed so close to the World Cup commencing on July 12.

Ryan has already lost star shooter Lisa Bowman after she broke her ankle in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

However, Armstrong, formerly Lennon, put her honeymoon on hold to answer her country's call by coming out of international retirement to play in a third World Cup.

"We were looking forward to Lisa playing a key role for us in Liverpool so it was devastating to lose her," reflected Ryan.

"However, we feel fortunate to have been able to bring in someone of the calibre, experience and versatility of Noleen."

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