Warriors too strong for Emeralds in all-Irish clash
NORTHERN Ireland has proven too experienced and consistent for its southern counterparts, defeating the Republic of Ireland by 35 goals on day two of the Netball World Cup European Qualifiers. Despite a shaky second term from the Warriors who were heavy favourites against the Emeralds, a raft of changes in the second half proved fruitful as the 12th ranked side powered away after half-time to secure a 59-24 victory in Glasgow.
NORTHERN IRELAND 14 | 9 | 18 | 18 (59)
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND 6 | 9 | 4 | 5 (24)
Ireland was coming off a heavy loss to Scotland, with Northern Ireland enjoying a huge win over Gibraltar on day one. The southern nation opted to start Aisling Sweeney in centre to try and quell the influence of star centre Caroline O’Hanlon, while Corey McGlynn was sent to goal defence where she had performed strongly against the Thistles.
Pocket rocket Erin Peters was in wing attack to go head-to-head with Niamh Cooper, while the combination of Fran Duffy and Millie Cox were up against the experience of Michelle Magee and Fionnuala Toner. To compare, Northern Ireland Orlaith Rogers shooter was the sole non-Superleague experienced player, while Ireland had none having played at that level before.
The signs were ominous from the first centre pass with Ireland turning it straight over to Niamh Cooper, but both sides were a little rushed in the opening minute. It took until almost two minutes in for Rogers to put the settler on the board, and then O’Hanlon’s supremacy in centre began. She was making the most of every touch despite being well covered, while the defensive pairing of Magee and Toner were nullifying the Emeralds shooters. Ciara Crosbie started in goal attack and her first goal put the favourites 5-0 up, before Cox finally scored Ireland’s first with almost six minutes done in the term.
Northern Ireland were playing too consistently for the underdogs, though to Ireland’s credit, their defence kept at it. Too often the Emeralds were either stagnant and getting called for three-second violations, or too rapid and overfiring passes or lobbying passes for the Warriors defence to chop off. Intercept after intercept from Magee, Toner and Cooper were putting the Warriors on top, and with Cox looking a little uncertain, the Warriors were on top. At quarter time, Northern Ireland lead by eight goals, 14-6.
Having been replaced by Alex Martin late in the first term, Rogers returned to the court for Northern Ireland, while for Ireland, Peters went into centre, Duffy into wing attack, Cox into goal attack and Sophie Murray came on in goal shooter. That attacking setup was clearly the best for the Emeralds, who produced a remarkable nine goals apiece quarter against the highly touted opposition. Murray was holding her ground and firing off shots consistently, with Cox looking more confident in that goal attack, and Peters seemingly having an infinite energy bar.
Still, for everything the Emeralds threw at the Warriors, Northern Ireland absorbed it. At one stage Ireland had a chance to get within four goals but missed the chance, and the Warriors quickly punished them up the other end. Sweeney moved into wing attack later in the term, with Eimhear O’Prey back into goal keeper as Northern Ireland rotated the changes like anything. By the half-time siren, the deficit was the same as it had been at quarter time, and the score was 23-15.
Northern Ireland coach Elaine Rice then made changes that would shift the entire course of the game and propel the Warriors to a massive win. The decision to move Crosbie into goal shooter and bring Georgie McGrath on at goal attack was a huge success, while Olivia McDonald went into goal keeper, Magee into goal defence and Toner into wing defence, providing further pressure up the court. With O’Hanlon in centre still, the Warriors were going to really put immense amount of pressure on the Emeralds midcourt.
That worked, as Ireland struggled to score in the entire 15 minutes, with only really Peters finding space, but the Warriors defence was up to every challenge, cutting off feeds or deflection passes and making the underdogs earn every opportunity. In a lob-sided 18-4 third term, Northern Ireland set up the win, and in doing so, cemented what the best Warriors lineup looked like in the attacking half of the court. Crosbie was sublime in goal shooter, and the teamwork between her and McGrath was on point. By the final break, the margin was out to 22 goals, having scored 41-9 for the game.
The result was frustrating Ireland who to be fair, had not been that bad, but the world number 12s had gone to another level. O’Prey earned a caution for persistent contact and obstruction, coming off for a cool down with McGlynn coming back on, but there was little that would change the result. The game was done and dusted with a quarter to play, so while the Emeralds did rotate their lineup with Cox into goal shooter, McGlynn into goal defence and Ciara Lynch into goal keeper, it was too little, too late. Ireland made a few more changes five minutes into the term, but once the margin hit 30 goals, Northern Ireland effectively called time.
The Warriors cleared out their bench with Toner, Magee, Cooper and O’Hanlon among those earning rests, and the younger players got their opportunities. In one of the more remarkable moves, McGrath was thrown from goal attack into centre, and while the Warriors did look a little disjointed – to no one’s surprise given the wholesale changes – they still followed on with the momentum to outscore the Emeralds with that lineup, 9-4 and win, 59-24.
AROUND THE COURTS
Scotland backed up its huge victory over Republic of Ireland on day one with a 62-goal thrashing of Isle of Man. Once again the full court dominance of the Thistles was on show, with Emily Nicholl and Claire Maxwell controlling the defence, and Iona Christian and Hannah Leighton feeding through to the circle in midcourt. Scotland piled on a tournament record 31 goals in he opening 15 minutes. Bethan Goodwin was outstanding in goal shooter, while for Isle of Man, wing defence Cassidy Pizzey worked hard to quell the dominant shooters after quarter time in the 82-20 loss.
There was no mercy shown by Wales during the Feathers shellacking of Gibraltar, piling on 95 goals to 19 during a 76-goal victory. There was no shortage of star talent on show for the Welsh side, with Georgia Rowe benefiting from the full court domination. Ella Powell-Davies held the line firmly from the defensive half, as Clare Jones and Shona O’Dwyer adding pace to the attack. Gibraltar goal keeper Isabella MacQuisten had some highlight-worthy moments despite being overwhelmed by the Welsh attack.