Caroline O'Hanlon: Armagh star leads Northern Ireland team at Commonwealth Games
ARMAGH Ladies' footballer Caroline O'Hanlon yesterday led out the Northern Ireland team during the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
A tropical rainstorm in the so-called 'sunshine state' served as a suitably eccentric beginning at the Carrara Stadium in the Gold Coast, Australia.
Athletes from major nations and tiny Pacific atolls marched shoulder to soggy shoulder during a vibrant ceremony which celebrated both the region's indigenous origins and its modern surfing culture.
Ms O'Hanlon, a midfielder with Carrickcruppen and the Orchard county, and Ladies' Footballer of the Year in 2014, said she felt proud to be the Northern Ireland flag bearer.
In Australia, she will captain the Northern Ireland netball squad and is part of an 88-strong team taking part in various events.
"You want to be selected to represent Northern Ireland and be here at the games but to have been asked, I was shocked to be honest, but I'm very, very proud," she said.
The games' baton had travelled around 70 nations and territories over 388 days, starting its journey at Buckingham Palace.
The final leg was completed by Australian hurdling star Sally Pearson in the Cararra Stadium. Protesters from the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance group had earlier held up the baton relay for 50 minutes as it neared its final destination.
The opening ceremony featured a performance from Australian singer and former Neighbours star Delta Goodrem.
Ms O'Hanlon and her team will take to the court today when they face world number one and host country Australia.
Bowler Catherine Beatttie will be the first Northern Ireland competitor in action in the women's singles against Zambia.
Also today, gymnasts Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer will aim for top 24 performances to make the all-around final and top eight to make the individual apparatus finals while Russell White and James Edgar will compete in the men's triathlon.
The athletes have been joined by sport specific coaches, medical personnel, support staff and a headquarters team bringing the size of the travelling party to 134, the largest Northern Ireland team to ever attend a Commonwealth Games in Australia.