They set out to win European netball silver and that is just what they did at the City of Lisburn Racquets club. The Northern Ireland Under 21 team achieved their goal at the European Netball championships with Jackie Portis making her debut as National Under 21 coach. Jackie was assistant coach with Northern Ireland in Fort Lauderdale in 2005 when the team came 6th in their debut and winning gold in the Europeans that year was aiming for silver this time with England out for revenge.
The team exceeded expectations with outstanding performances against England, Wales and Scotland.
In their opening match against England on Friday night in front of a capacity crowd they came within 4 goals of the eventual champions in the final quarter but England were able to hold on to win by 9 goals 51-42. Wales defeated Scotland 43-42 in the following match.
A comfortable 59-34 win for Northern Ireland over Scotland on Saturday set them up to challenge for silver on Sunday. Meanwhile the Welsh were defeated in the second match on Saturday against England by 18 goals 49-28 the final score. Northern Ireland were outstanding against the Welsh in the final match of the tournament with Lisa Bowman in superb shooting form and Wing Attack Laura Mason at only 5'1" causing all sorts of trouble and combining with Michelle Drayne in centre court to thwart the tall Welsh defence.
Deborah McCarthy and Laura McDonald dominated in the defending circle and Neamh Woods and Kirsty Owens were back to form following injury Kirsty having missed last years championships when she broke her arm the week before the Europeans and Neamh recovering from a broken collar bone.Laura Montgomery from Lisburn whose daughter was the captain of the Under 17 team in Cardiff gained her A badge in umpiring at the tournament in Lisburn.
This all round team effort will raise moral as the players prepare for the World Youth Champions next year in Cook Islands and possible selection for the 6 Nations this September in Singapore.
.New Under 21 caps Lisa Bowman,Kyla Bowman,Deborah McCarthy, Laura Mason, Laura McDonald, Neamh Woods, Michelle Drayne, Kirsty Owens, Sinead Kelly,Sinead Smye, Clare Potter,Claire Henry,
– but the sailors praise the new boats