More recognition for O’Hanlon

January 14, 2013

by Richard Bullick

Ladies football All-Star Caroline O’Hanlon has added an equivalent international netball accolade to her impressive personal roll of honour for 2012.

The multi-talented Bessbrook woman was named in the Northern Hemisphere Select side on the back of netball’s first world series after shining against some of the top teams in the global game.

In last month’s World Premier Club Challenge in Glasgow, O’Hanlon’s Northern Panthers took on the cream of the world’s top two leagues – professional outfits from the ANZL and the Sky-televised British SuperLeague.

Although Caroline’s commitments as a doctor meant she was only on court for just under half the tournament, she impressed sufficiently to be included in the national Northern Hemisphere squad of 12 – a similar concept to the football All-Stars.

The vastly-experienced Northern Ireland international earned rave reviews from the commentators for the impact she made against crack Aussie side West Coast Fever and was central to the Panthers pushing British SuperLeague champions Manchester Thunder all the way.

Manchester Thunder eventually edged an epic encounter 50-47 and although O’Hanlon missed the final two fixtures due to her hospital shifts, she had done enough to be honoured along with Panthers’ team-mate Noleen Lennon.

Although locally the year just ended will be best remembered for Caroline’s contribution to Armagh’s Ulster and All-Ireland Intermediate Championship double, she has also had outstanding success in her other sport.

The long-serving Carrickcruppen captain also skippers Lisburn club Larkfield in netball and although they were beaten by Belfast-based Graduates in the NI Cup final last April, O’Hanlon led her team to a revenge victory this autumn which took Larkfield to the top of the NI Premier League table.

She helped the Northern Panthers win at the British Invitational Tournament in Glasgow in the spring and inspired Northern Ireland, for whom she won her 50th cap during the tournament, to runners-up place for the first time ever – in 32 attempts – at May’s European Championships.

The 28-year-old picked up Player of the Match after the victory over Wales which secured the girls in green their silver medals – and six days later was named Player of the Tournament as Ulster regained the interpro title in ladies football!

Eligible through part-time studies she was vice-captain of the Irish Students side which finished a fantastic fourth at July’s inaugural World University Netball Championships in Cape Town.

Having been an influential figure in Armagh’s provincial championship success, she dashed back from South Africa following Northern Ireland’s creditable showing in the Test series against their hosts to get the Orchard County’s All-Ireland campaign on track with victory over Down.

Player of the match in the semi-final victory over Longford, she subsequently shone on the big stage of Croke Park as Waterford were put to the sword and it was little surprise when O’Hanlon not only claimed her second All-Star but also lifted the coveted All Ireland Intermediate Player of the Year title.

Never one to rest on her laurels or bask in the glory of past achievements, the insatiable O’Hanlon will have her sights set on nailing many more sporting goals in the year ahead.

On Friday, Northern Ireland face a daunting task when they face world champions Australia in Bath but the main business of the year will be attempting to secure qualification for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

On the football field, Armagh’s first objective is to earn promotion from Division Three of the National League before returning to the Senior Championship with a fresh spring in their step after last season’s success at a lower level.