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Northern Ireland’s rookies elated after Continental Cup debut

Alice Harkness (left) and Rhian McCarroll are two of four ladies representing Northern Ireland as the country debuted this weekend in the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup
Portoroz, Slovenia, June 15, 2014 - Scotland and Northern Ireland are celebrating this weekend their debut in the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup. On Saturday teams from these countries played a series of matches in Portoroz to mark their premiere in the competition that has been set up as an alternative road to qualify teams for the Olympics.

Scotland and Northern Ireland did not join the inaugural CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup that got started in 2009 and eventually qualified one team per gender for the Olympic Beach Volleyball tournament at London 2012. Back then Great Britain had one spot granted as host country.

Now Scotland and Northern Ireland are among the countries that joined the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup for the first time. The group also includes the likes of Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Republic of Moldova, and San Marino.

Northern Ireland’s campaign finished already on Saturday after their duos lost two consecutive “country vs. country” match-ups. They first played their Celtic neighbours from Scotland and both men and women lost all of their matches to the Scots. Later in the afternoon, they got to play hosts Slovenia for a spot in the semis but again they did not win a match.

Even though they could not celebrate any victory, all players from Northern Ireland were very excited and elated with the opportunity to represent their country in the Continental Cup. “It is a totally different experience for us as we never entered any European competition before,” said Rhian McCarroll. “It is a totally different set up than what we are used to. We always play in the rain, but here in Portoroz it is very hot, the sand is hot as well, everything is so different. We really enjoyed being here and it is impressive to see all these guys play. It is also an honour to play against them. It is the opportunity you only get once in a lifetime and we are really happy with being here and having a chance to perform.”

Jonathan Workman also enjoyed his experience: “It is nice to be here. It is the first time that we are given such fantastic opportunity. It’s a great set up, nothing to be compared with what we are used to. You can challenge yourself against excellent players. It is all about how you are going to be better and this you can only achieve if you play and learn from better players. Even the conditions are very different than at home, especially the temperature of the sand. We usually play in cold weather, it rains very often in Northern Ireland, and this is again something we have tried to adjust to. We got to play against Scotland and then with Slovenia. This is the highest level we got to play in our career and I think we can take a lot of good lessons from this experience, take it all back home and work hard to improve. We will try to enter Ireland’s, Scotland’s and England’s national tours this year in order to compete and challenge ourselves again, as we have another round of the Continental Cup to play later this summer. There the teams will probably be more on our level. We will be doing our best and we keep going.”

Northern Ireland ended the competition in Portoroz in fifth place and will therefore re-start their campaign with the second round of the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup scheduled for August/September 2014.


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