Supremely confident Northern Ireland destroyed one of the world’s top 12 teams in emphatically claiming their place in Sunday’s International Festival final at Antrim Forum.
Saturday’s final round robin match (1pm) will be a dress rehearsal for the showdown with Barbados, but with world ranking points at stake neither coach is likely to play cat and mouse with selection or tactics.
Two wins should see Northern Ireland replace their opponents in 10th place in the world rankings so even this first fixture is far from a dead rubber and Kate Carpenter has promised that the hosts will be going all out for what would be a significant scalp.
The one negative note from the evening was the fear of a serious injury to the legendary Noleen Lennon, who was carried off with a badly turned ankle just before half-time.
She would be a massive loss if ruled out of the rest of the tournament but her departure made little difference on the night to a rampant Northern Ireland who romped homr 61-36.
The simply magnificent girls in green got off to a inspired start against St Lucia, leading 19-7 after a first quarter which experienced centre Caroline O’Hanlon admitted was up there with anything this team has produced down the years.
It was stirring stuff from Carpenter’s slick crew, who played with fantastic confidence, energy and purpose backed up with impressive pace, precision and generally good option-taking.
Captain Hannah Willis was on fire in the opening period, working well with the wonderful O’Hanlon and all-action Oonagh McCullough in what was an exceptionally cohesive effort as Northern Ireland at one stage reeled off 10 goals without reply.
With no Lennon to switch up front, it was important that Lisa Somerville could last the full hour and she was still going strong at the end to take the team past the symbolic mark of 60 goals for the 60 minutes.
This time Somerville scored 44 of Northern Ireland’s goals, while McCullough came back from difficulty finding the net in the second quarter to finish with a dozen and an improved conversion rate from the opening night win over Botswana.
St Lucia fought hard to ensure a much more even second quarter though the home team still edged it by two to lead 29-15 at half-time.
With Lennon gone, Northern Ireland needed a strong third quarter and they duly delivered, which enabled Carpenter to clear her bench going into the last period for the second night running.