Caroline O’Hanlon calls for support for smaller netballing nations
Northern Ireland captain Caroline O’Hanlon called on World Netball to do more for smaller nations after her side lost 54-41 to Malawi at the Commonwealth Games.
The Warriors were going goal for goal with the Queens before Malawi won the third quarter 17-7 and pulled away.
O’Hanlon was full of praise for the way her young side competed for much of the game in Birmingham but believes more should be done to help their development.
“The resources for the nations outside the top four, six, are limited, the opportunities are limited,” said O’Hanlon, who is one of just five players in the squad to play outside of Ulster, recently winning the British Vitality Netball Superleague with Manchester Thunder.
“We’d like World Netball to look at that.
“There’s Quad Series and different things but the lower nations are not getting those opportunities and that’s allowing the gap to widen. That needs to be looked at long-term.
“They’re facilitating Quad Series, the likes of South Africa, Malawi, Uganda are regularly invited to those and that highlights these gaps.
“Maybe an opportunity where the next tier teams are getting the opportunity to play a bit more frequently.”
Northern Ireland had opened their Games with a 79-20 defeat to World Champions New Zealand but looked far more competitive against Malawi.
Trailing by just four at half-time, there appeared a real chance of an upset before O’Hanlon was left to rue a costly third quarter.
“At half-time, we were right in it, probably a couple of errors just before half-time let the gap open up a little bit,” added O’Hanlon.
“We really need to look at our third quarter, it was really disappointing.
“We tactically had started really well and were right in it but in the third quarter, errors all over cost us.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is inspiring people and communities across the country and O’Hanlon hopes their performance will motivate others to get involved in sport.
Despite defeat, O’Hanlon knows there is plenty to learn from the Games, with her young side able to play against the world’s very best but was nevertheless frustrated by defeat.
“They’re a top team, we know that,” said O’Hanlon.
“They’re playing Test matches against the top four regularly and we’re probably not getting that regular competitive test. We’re pleased in parts but overall disappointed.
“Joyce [Mvula] is phenomenal. That shows their strength in depth when they can take her off and put [Mwai] Kumwenda into [goal] shooter.
“It’s always a privilege to play for Northern Ireland and every time you go out on court you want to set the standard and lead from the front. That’s my role.
“It’s a really good bunch of girls who step up every time and it’s an honour to be alongside them.”
Northern Ireland next face defending gold medallists England, but O’Hanlon insists they’re just going to enjoy their netball.
“They’re the reigning champions, the pressure is all on them,” said O’Hanlon. “We’ll go out, enjoy the game, work hard and make it hard for them.”
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