Northern Ireland may not be eligible to compete in the Commonwealth Games at senior international level but the Under 18s will have the opportunity to sample a similar multi-sport environment when they take part in the Sainsbury’s UK School Games in Manchester this weekend.
The girls, coached by Lisnagarvey defender Steven Arbuthnot, will be up against two sides from England plus the Welsh and Scottish national sides as part of the overall Northern Ireland team.
The girls, many of whom have Premier League experience, won the U-18 inter-provincial tournament last year so will be confident of doing well and emulating, or perhaps even bettering last year’s silver medal finish.
Two years ago they came home with a set of gold medals but, on that occasion, England weren’t in the mix, and so the hosts should start favourites.
“Lurgan’s Kathryn Edgar captains the squad and we will seek to go one step further after winning silver last year,” said Ulster High Performance manager Stephen Watt, who will watching proceedings.
“Many of our girls have given a significant amount of time from early July to prepare for this event through thrice-weekly training sessions and the talent level is high.”
Watt points to the fact that the tournament is a breeding-ground for the senior internationals of the future.
“England use the Games as part of their selection process for picking their national U-18 squad and it will be important that we hit the ground running,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Queen’s are also heading across the Irish Sea this weekend - to play a pre-season tournament as they prepare for their opening Denman Ulster Shield game with Lisnagarvey during the week.
They will take on the hosts and current Scottish Premier League champions Edinburgh University tonight, then ESM from the Scottish Premier League tomorrow and Whitley Bay, who play in the Investec Conference North, on Sunday.