2022 Commonwealth Games Preview: Northern Ireland
THE 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England and just around the corner. To celebrate, we are previewing each of the competing netball nations and predicting how they might fare in the tournament.
Today it is Northern Ireland, who finished eighth last time around at the Commonwealth Games.
Much like Barbados in the other pool at these games, Northern Ireland will certainly be out to defy some expectations.
Despite gradual improvement in recent years, they are still the lowest ranked in their group, they still have an uphill battle to try and get out of the group.
After current West Coast Fever coach Dan Ryan took them to 10th at the last World Cup, their coach from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Elaine Rice is back to try and better the Warriors’ eighth placed finish on the Gold Coast four years ago.
At the last games they beat both Barbados and Fiji, but unfortunately this time around Fiji are not competing and Barbados are in the other pool.
Coming into these games the Warriors will take confidence from the fact that at the most recent World Cup although they lost to Malawi, it was only a narrow loss. They key thing about that particular fixture is that Malawi are in their pool at these games, unlike the two teams the Warriors beat at the last World Cup – Sri Lanka and Barbados.
Speaking of their schedule, they could have not got a trickier opponent in their pool to start with – reigning world champions the Silver Ferns.
Much like Barbados in the other pool, Northern Ireland’s schedule does get easier in the back end of the pool stage, but with the reigning Commonwealth champions in their pool as well, it may be a case of too little too late by then.
The Warriors’ squad is led by stalwart Caroline O’Hanlon, who some describe as the Northern Irish version of Laura Langman, and is also a County level Gaelic footballer for Armagh, and is off to her third games.
Others who are off to their third games are vice captain Fionnuala Toner and Michelle Magee, whose sister Emma is also in the team. The Magee sisters will be familiar to those who watch the VNSL, because they play for Surrey and Leeds respectively. As will O’Hanlon, who is a member of the reigning champions Manchester Thunder side.
Despite all this experience, there are still seven members of the 12-player squad who are off to their first games, so it’s still a relatively inexperienced side.
Fionnuala Toner, Caroline O’Hanlon, Michelle Magee, Emma Magee, Olivia McDonald, Georgie McGrath, Maria McCann, Frances Keenan, Michelle Drayne, Ciara Crosbie, Niamh Cooper, Jenna Bowman
Friday 29 July – New Zealand
Sunday 31 July – Malawi
Monday 1 August – England
Wednesday 3 August – Uganda
Thursday 4 August – Trinidad and Tobago