Larkfield’s Lisa Bowman is back in international netball only a few weeks after an absence of several seasons due to a double maternity break.
Along with newcomer Maeve McQuillan, Bowman is the eye-catching inclusion in the Northern Ireland squad for next Saturday’s one-off Test against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
The giant goalshooter from Magherafelt hasn’t worn the green dress since before her first pregnancy in 2010, the year after captaining the Under 21s in the Junior World Championships in the Cook Islands.
An experienced player who featured at full international level as far back as the 2007 European Championships, she is the oldest of three sisters to have represented her country.
The youngest, teenager Jenna, was capped last season but has been edged out of Larkfield’s strongest side by her sister’s return to partner sibling Kyla in the shooting circle. Although clearly lacking international level fitness at this stage, the eldest Bowman can still play.
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certainly nail down a squad spot ahead of next summer’s Commonwealth Games.
Few can match her physical prowess and in the short-term her return gives new national coach Kate Carpenter options in the injury-enforced absence of captain Gemma Gibney.
Dublin-based student McQuillan has been drafted in as a specialist goal-keeper replacement but the coach could deploy main markswoman Noleen Lennon at the opposite end of the court with a natural replacement up front now in Bowman.
Under 21 international McQuillan, attached to Belfast Ladies but not a familiar face in the Premier League, is the surprise inclusion in the squad.
Her selection sends out a signal that Carpenter will look beyond the established squad in accessing contenders though the ball remains in Deborah McCarthy’s court to be Gibney’s back-up at Glasgow 2014.
Nordia Masters and regular Lisa McCaffrey, vice-captain up until the 2011 World Cup before being sidelined for a year with a foot problem, were both unavailable for selection.
Cathy McLean of Belfast Ladies has been named as centre cover for Caroline O’Hanlon, while young guns Maire Toner and NI Under 21 captain Niamh Cooper are also among the 12.
Cooper will compete with Frances Campbell, Fionnuala Toner and Michelle Drayne for two starting spots in defence though Campbell could also fill in as goal-keeper.
The panel for Dublin is completed by Graduates duo Oonagh McCullough and Hannah Willis, who will captain the team in clubmate Gibney’s absence.
There are still five from Graduates in this squad which contain a Belfast Ladies quartet and three players from Larkfield so it is hardly surprising that the big three clubs should all win again in tonight’s Premier League games.
Champions Belfast Ladies play Dromore, Larkfield face Westside and Graduates take on Bangor. Elsewhere, Laganside and Causeway will be tipped to beat Banbridge and Donaghadee.
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