Larkfield captain Caroline O’Hanlon has been ruled out of Saturday’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland after sustaining two broken ribs playing ladies gaelic.
The world-class centre now faces a real race against time to be fit for the prestigious International Festival of Netball which begins at Antrim Forum on Thursday week, though she remains cautiously optimistic of making it.
Her place in the squad for the Dublin warm-up match has been taken by Belfast Ladies teenager Ciara Crosbie but the vastly experienced campaigner will be given every chance of recovering for the following week.
The circumstances surrounding O’Hanlon’s injuries are causing controversy in gaelic circles with claims the Bessbrook woman was deliberately targeted for rough treatment in the Ulster Senior Club Championship semi-final.
Captaining Armagh champions Carrickcruppen against Donegal outfit Termon, the 29-year-old was on the receiving end of a succession of heavy hits and many of her team’s frees were awarded for fouls on her.
The Daisy Hill Hospital doctor displayed incredible bravery by playing the entire second half with her ribs broken but Carrickcruppen’s agonising loss by a single point only added to the hurt.
O’Hanlon hasn’t missed a Northern Ireland match in the past four years. She has played in all but one of the last 35 Tests – when rested for one of the two games against the Republic last autumn – dating back to the triumphant 2009 Nations Cup campaign in Singapore.
The Republic clash will give back-up centre Cathy McLean court time with O’Hanlon’s Larkfield clubmate Michelle Drayne being another option.
Meanwhile Crosbie’s call-up is another tribute to Belfast Ladies’ impressive production line and takes the Premier League champions’ representation in Saturday’s squad to six.
On Friday night they eased past top flight newcomers Dromore 80-11.