Belfast Telegraph

Somerville steals the show as girls end on high note

By Richard Bullick

Northern Ireland's netballers were in seventh heaven in Glasgow last night after the perfect finish to their first Commonwealth Games campaign. Seeded 11th at the tournament, they produced a superb performance to destroy favourites Wales 58-36 in the seventh place play-off in a packed SECC arena.

Hugely emotional captain Hannah Willis, possibly playing her last match before international retirement along with Noleen Lennon, dubbed it the best day of her entire netball career.

It was a great team effort but the headlines will go to giant goal-shooter Lisa Somerville, who had the game of her life in firing Northern Ireland to a thoroughly convincing victory.

In spite of twice receiving treatment for fingers in the eye, the imposing Somerville scored 46 of Northern Ireland's 58 goals and only missed seven shots all morning.

The Larkfield forward hadn't played a single minute of Wednesday's win over Scotland but came into the starting team yesterday in place of Nordia Masters.

The resulting reshuffle meant the previously prolific Lennon reverted to the opposite end of the court as goalkeeper with Gemma Gibney moving out to goal defence.

Somerville scored 14 goals in the opening 15 minutes as Northern Ireland led 16-8 after the first quarter, an advantage which was extended to 31-18 by half-time.

Watched by her two young children, Somerville nailed 26 of her 28 first half chances.

Helped by defender Fionnuala Toner and all-action centre Caroline O'Hanlon further out, Lennon and Gibney were generally effective in nullifying the Welsh.

"We are absolutely over the moon, we are delighted," said Somerville.

"We came here with the expectation of eighth and we wanted seventh. We got a good start, maintained it, built it throughout the game and just finished off on a high."

O'Hanlon added: "We knew a lot about Wales after a really poor World Cup qualifier defeat.

"This was really the driving force going into that match. We had a point to prove and on this, the highest stage for netball, this was the time to do it."

O'Hanlon was influential for Northern Ireland and Wales struggled to contend with her.

Supported by steady skipper Willis and goal attack Oonagh McCullough, O'Hanlon's vision, speed and supreme passing gave the Welsh defence nightmares.

The Larkfield captain's club colleague Somerville made the most of the constant supply of scoring chances while McCullough chipped in with 10 goals.

Northern Ireland led 40-29 going into the last quarter and took it 18-7.

Beating both their celtic cousins to clinch seventh was sweet for Northern Ireland after recent defeats by Scotland and Wales denied them qualification for next year's World Cup.

NORTHERN IRELAND: N Lennon, G Gibney, F Toner, C O'Hanlon, H Willis (capt), O McCullough, L Somerville. Subs: L McCaffrey for Willis, M Drayne for Toner.

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