National Shield U18 Women’s Champions 2015 Ulster Elks will host a first round of the U18 National Cup Competition this weekend in Ulster University Jordanstown campus. The event will see the Elks take on opposition from Tralee Imperials and Portlaoise Panthers in their pool games on Saturday at 12:45pm and 4:15pm. Portlaoise with 6′ 3″ Claire Melia who dominated for the Ireland u16 Women’s team in last summers European Championships in Macedonia, alongside Elks team mate Enya Maguire, will be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament. Melia was a European leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots and is currently leaving her imprint in the women’s premiere league posting weekly double figures in scoring and rebounding. Tralee Imperials led by coach Liam Culloty will be well versed on the Elks having operated as assistant coach on the Ireland U18 Women’s team who had Elks duo Anna Maguire and Verity O Connor as part of their starting five in their European Championships in Romania.
The Elks will be hoping to reach the semi final and final on the Sunday which might pit them against Carraig Na Bhfear from Cork, Oblate Dynamoes from Dublin or Letterkenny Blaze who make up pool b in the tournament. If the Elks reach the Sunday afternoon final they will make history as the first Northern women’s team to play in the quarter finals of the prestigious U18 National Cup competition.
The Elks are aware of the challenge ahead and know that they will have to attempt this feat without the highly valuable Ciara Cooke (NI Netball international) who will undergo surgery for a torn ACL in late November. Elks coach Deirdre Brennan says “Losing Ciara Cooke is of course a major blow but we are still confident that if the players we have perform to the best of their ability we can make it through to the quarter finals. We are deeper than we were last year with our bench well able to not just contribute but genuinely make a difference in games.” “Michelle Courts and Verity will have to play smart as we don’t have the flexibility of rotating 3 players in and out of the post as Ciara is out and Jessica Martin is still working on returning to full fitness after a bad finger break last season.
The Elks team boasts three sets of sisters with Ciara and Muirin Mc Creanor daughters of ex Belfast Star player Brian Mc Creanor, Irish international sisters Anna and Enya Maguire and Aoibheann and Ciara Mc Carvill. They are joined by Irish international guard Brianna Mulhern and her St Genevieves team mate Nicole Mc Keown.
A first or second finish over the weekend will see the Elks progress to a quarter final on the first weekend of December.