NI netball team prepare to take on the world

Northern Ireland's netballers have set a target of a top-10 finish, and perhaps a quarter-final place, as they prepare to take part in the World Championships in Singapore next week.

The girls in green are aiming to build on two years of impressive progress at their first appearance at the global event which is staged every four years.

NI have risen from 19th in the world rankings to an all-time high of 12th.

They are in Pool A, along with Samoa, Australia and Sri Lanka.

The top two teams from the pool will qualify for the quarter-finals.

With Australia expected to be in a league of their own, a win against Sri Lanka in Monday's opener would effectively set up a shootout with tenth seeds Samoa for runners-up position in the group and a quarter-final meeting with England.

The squad is coached by Elaine Rice and features seven of the Under-21s who secured a stunning sixth place at the Junior World Championships in Florida in 2005 and three more from the group which achieved an excellent eighth at the equivalent event in the Cook Islands four years later.

Northern Ireland failed to make it to the 2007 World Cup but secured their passage to Singapore this time by beating both Scotland and Wales at the regional qualifying event in Glasgow last June.

Coach Rice appeared at two World Cups as a player, as did her assistant Clar-Rois McGuinness.

Of the current panel, only captain Noeleen Lennon and Armagh Ladies gaelic star Caroline O'Hanlon have been there before.

Both were selected to travel to Jamaica in 2003 as talented teenagers.

Northern Ireland drew their opening warm-up match 43-43 with Botswana on Thursday and then defeated hosts Singapore 51-30 on Friday.

Northern Ireland squad: Noleen Lennon (capt), Micaela Brunton, Fionnuala Toner, Frances Campbell (all Belfast Ladies), Lisa McCaffrey (vice-captain), Gemma Gibney, Hannah Irvine, Oonagh McCullough (all Graduates), Caroline O'Hanlon, Kyla Bowman, Deborah McCarthy, Laura Mason (all Larkfield).