O’Hanlon’s Irish net fourth in world
By Richard Bullick
Bessbrook sports star Caroline O’Hanlon narrowly missed out on a medal as her Irish Students side finished fourth at the inaugural World University Netball Championships in South Africa.
Ireland’s hopes of lifting the trophy were ended by a 52-37 defeat by top seeds Great Britain in the semi-final and they then lost the third place play-off to pre-tournament favourites Jamaica 41-30.
Frustratingly, O’Hanlon’s side had more shots at goal in the semi than the British, who went on to lift the trophy by beating hosts South Africa 53-49 in a memorable decider at the Good Hope Centre.
No-one did more than O’Hanlon to ensure the underdogs created enough chances to cause a major upset but the poor conversion rate undermined that hard work in a game where Ireland literally came up short.
Having a 6’4” inch shooter, Steffi Burt, gave GB a natural advantage in the shooting stakes and her almost flawless finishing put a famous victory beyond Ireland’s reach in every sense.
At the other end of the court, O’Hanlon and her fellow hospital doctor Oonagh McCullough – with whom she shared the leadership duties – had to battle against towering defenders, resulting in disappointing percentages.
The experienced pair had been heroes in the previous day’s quarter-final against the tournament’s most intimidating team, Uganda, soaking up sustained physical punishment to get Ireland over the line.
Uganda proved the tournament’s surprise package, running Jamaica close and only losing by a single goal against GB so Ireland deserve credit for their hard-earned 45-43 triumph.
Earlier in the week, Rice’s side had secured runners-up place in Pool A with convincing victories over the United States (67-16) and Zimbabwe in their final two group games after an opening day defeat by hosts South Africa (57-47).
O’Hanlon was withdrawn in the third quarter against the Americans after twisting an ankle but she and McCullough tore Zimbabwe to shreds the following day as the Irish rattled up a 47-7 half-time lead.
Although a world-class centre, O’Hanlon was deployed in the less natural role of second shooter for most of the week as Rice had more alternative options in the middle of the court than up front.
The 27-year-old will relish being back where she belongs this week when Northern Ireland take on South Africa, ranked fifth in the world, in a tough three Test series determined to go one better than their near miss when losing 46-41 at last summer’s World Cup in Singapore.
There were concerns when O’Hanlon needed treatment after a very heavy fall in the final minute against Jamaica, but she refused to leave the court and was subsequently declared fully fit for the internationals.
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