Northern Ireland girls open World netball tournament

TALENTED: Caroline O'Hanlon
TALENTED: Caroline O'Hanlon

The Northern Panthers players will come up against their mentor Norma Plummer in Glasgow on Wednesday night in their opening match at the inaugural World Premier Club Challenge.

Plummer, who coached Australia to World Cup success in Singapore last year, was brought to Belfast for three weeks this autumn by Netball NI to work in a consultancy capacity with the national squad.

Her innovative input was warmly praised at the time by Panthers vice-captain Hannah Irvine, but Plummer will be in the opposing camp this evening (7pm) as head coach of West Coast Fever.

Facing the professional outfit from Perth is a tough test first up for the girls in green, who are straight back in action on Thursday morning (10.30) against British SuperLeague side, Surrey Storm.

The tight turnaround between the first two matches will add to the daunting task of taking on four of the world’s top teams and hosts Glasgow Wildcats – Scotland by another name – over the next five days.

However the Panthers, led by Northern Ireland captain Gemma Gibney with another Australian, Trish Warren, as coach are relishing the challenge of facing the best in the business in this exciting new tournament.

“We’ll be facing stronger sides this week than a lot of teams you might meet at full international level so there’s no doubt we’ll be up against it but everyone’s really looking forward to testing ourselves in that environment,” says Panthers ace Caroline O’Hanlon.

“This is exactly the sort of competitive exposure we need if we want to keep pushing forward at international level and qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games back here in Glasgow.”