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Storm eyeing brighter days with Cooper raring to go


Niamh Cooper

Niamh Cooper

Niamh Cooper

Northern Ireland's Niamh Cooper is expected to be fit for Surrey Storm's derby battle against fellow strugglers London Pulse live on Sky Sports this evening (7.15pm).

The 28-year-old's impressive performances at wing defence have stood out during what has been an underwhelming SuperLeague campaign so far for Mikki Austin's side.

Cooper missed the last match against her fellow doctor Caroline O'Hanlon's Manchester Thunder after rolling her ankle in the previous day's defeat to Strathclyde Sirens.

However, there wasn't significant damage, and with the two-week break in fixtures, her hope has been to return for what is an important match against capital rivals Pulse.

Neither team has made the impression they had hoped for this season, with only two wins each from a total of 23 matches between them going into tonight's game at the Copper Box.

Storm are ninth in the table, behind their opponents on scoring difference but with a match in hand, and won 42-40 when the teams met in the first fixture of the season.

That was the day Emma Magee tore ankle ligaments just four minutes into her SuperLeague debut but the Northern Ireland forward made her return off the bench last time out.

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The 23-year-old did well at goal attack after coming on at half-time in the Thunder defeat and would expect to get game-time in what would be her first televised fixture for Storm.

Northern Ireland mid-courter Michelle Drayne has often found herself benching this season as Pulse have tended to put their faith in youth, but she should have a role to play tonight.

Meanwhile, Fionnuala Toner is still waiting for her first start for Leeds Rhinos since suffering an achilles injury against Saracens Mavericks back in February.

The Northern Ireland vice-captain returned to action as a sub against Thunder but wasn't brought back into the starting seven for yesterday's second clash with Mavericks.

Dan Ryan again left young Belfast woman Michelle Magee out of his squad in the first fixture Rhinos have had since his departure as NI head coach was announced. Rhinos led 16-12 after the opening period with Aussie shooter Donnell Wallam in prolific form and had extended their advantage to 33-22 by half-time.

Co-captain Toner came on for the last quarter with Rhinos 15 ahead and this 63-48 victory keeps their outside hopes of making the top four play-offs alive.

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