NETBALL: Northern Ireland qualify for Commonwealth Games

The Northern Ireland team celebrate. Pictur by Freddie Parkinson
The Northern Ireland team celebrate. Pictur by Freddie Parkinson

Northern Ireland’s netballers have qualified for next spring’s Commonwealth Games with a top 10 place in the world rankings as the icing on the cake.

Official confirmation came yesterday afternoon when the International Netball Federation published the updated standings, which have Northern Ireland in 10th position.

Teams needed to be in the top 12 by the official cut-off date to qualify for Gold Coast 2018 and Elaine Rice’s side have had an anxious wait to learn their qualification fate.

The girls in green had done all they could by beating ninth-ranked Barbados twice en route to winning a quadrangular invitational tournament late last month.

However with so many matches taking place elsewhere and some surprise results feeding into the complex mathematical calculations, they weren’t sure whether it would be enough for qualification.

Uganda’s shock win over the world’s sixth best team Malawi had caused consternation as that high-value victory was believed likely to see them leapfrog Northern Ireland.

That prediction proved well-founded with the Africans climbing from 13th to ninth in the new rankings but Northern Ireland have hopped above Barbados and Scotland into 10th.

Barbados were already assured of their place having upset neighbouring giants Jamaica and whitewashing Trinidad 3-0 in a Test series before coming here for the Quad Series.

However the double defeat against Rice’s side drops them down to 11th with recently inactive Scotland just squeezing through ahead of Trinidad for the final ticket to Australia.