By Chris Caldwell
OVER the last 18 months, Northern Ireland’s netball team has been riding the crest of a wave, and Omagh’s Neamh Woods has enjoyed every single minute of beating the Bahamas en route to winning the Quad Series, qualifying for both the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, as well as winning a silver medal at the European Championships.
The ladies latest achievement occurred at the weekend when they sealed their place at the 2019 World Cup, which will be held in Liverpool next July 12-21, after they defeated Wales 57-42 on Saturday during a qualifying tournament.
As hosts Scotland has already defeated the same opposition 52-40 the day before, that meant the Welsh were eliminated, leaving the home side and Northern Ireland to play out Sunday’s finale as a dead-rubber as both had already qualified.
However, after losing that encounter 52-31 in disappointing fashion, Neamh believes her side still have plenty to work on before they depart for Australia and the Commonwealth Games at the end of March.
“We automatically qualified after beating Wales, but we went into the Scotland game wanting to win it, but I don’t now what happened,” explained the St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley, PE teacher.
“We lost our goal shooter before we went over and we changed a circle defender into a shooter, so there was a bit of a reshuffle. We definitely needed everyone onboard.
“We were disappointed by our performance in that game, but with the Commonwealth Games coming up in April it could be a good thing because it shows we still have plenty to work on.
“It’s been an amazing 18 months for us, and that defeat to Scotland was only our second defeat in that time, which isn’t a bad return and that run has seen us move up to eighth in the world, which is the highest Northern Ireland has ever been.
“We’re all looking forward to the Commonwealth Games now and with us being eighth in the world we’d be looking to maintain that position, if not push on a bit further!”
Between now and the Commonwealth Games, Neamh will turn her attentions outdoors and the start of the Ladies National League because the Tyrone captain is determined to leave her charges in a good position when she leaves them for Australia.
And while the multi-talented defender will avoid missing any matches with her club, Drumragh Sarsfields, she is hopeful of being back home in time for the knockout stages.
“The National League starts today (Sunday) at home to Waterford, so I’ll have to balance both things!,” he explained.
“I’ll only miss two league games when I’m at the Commonwealth Games, so hopefully, if we get that far, I’ll be back for the league semi-finals!”
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