Top sprinter Anna fast-tracks her way into NI netball team

Anna Boyle of Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club sprints to victory in her heat of the 100 meters at Saturday's Northern Ireland Athletics Championship at the Antrim Forum. However Boyle, who had competed in the Bisslet games in Oslo the previous night, was beaten in the final by Amy Foster. AT25-570CS
Anna Boyle of Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club sprints to victory in her heat of the 100 meters at Saturday's Northern Ireland Athletics Championship at the Antrim Forum. However Boyle, who had competed in the Bisslet games in Oslo the previous night, was beaten in the final by Amy Foster. AT25-570CS

By Neil McKnight

A former international sprinter from Dunloy has fast-tracked her way into the Northern Ireland Netball Squad.

Anna Boyle, a 60m and 100m Irish record holder, will be taking part in the British Invitational Netball Tournament this weekend.

The call-up marks a rapid progression for Anna as she only returned to the sport last year after hanging up her running spikes.

She will be competing for the NI team, known as the Northern Panthers, in Glasgow against representative teams from England, Scotland and Wales.

Anna, who also plays locally for Causeway Netball, went for a NI squad trial in October.

The 22 contenders were then whittled down to the 14-player senior squad.

The 28-year-old had not played netball for around six years and the last time she was on court it was only at club level.

Anna told the Times of her joy after being selected.

She said: “I’m delighted to be called up to the squad. This is like my first cap for the netball.”

“I went to the squad in September and being in the squad has given me a foot in the door. My basic fitness levels - speed, strength and power - were there, and it’s given me a chance to boost my court skills.”

Looking ahead to the tournament, she added: “I’m a little bit anxious, (but) I will look to the experience and look to build up my confidence.”

Following her quick rise in netball, Anna now faces a rigorous training regime.

When not practising and competing for the Causeway Netball in the A1 NI Netball League, she also trains with the Northern Ireland squad at the Sports Institute in Jordanstown and has NI squad sessions at the Antrim Forum.

However the six-day-a-week training schedule is nothing new for Anna who made her name in local sporting circles with her success on the track.

The 5ft 3in centre said: “It’s nothing compared to athletics, it’s a step down when I used to be travelling and training twice a day.”

Anna hopes her netball skills will be boosted when an Australian coach takes charge of the NI team for six weeks this month.

The appointment should improve the squad for the European championships in England in May.

And it could also increase Anna’s chances of competing at the Commonwealth Games in two different sports.

The sports development officer for Antrim Borough Council hopes to compete at the games in Glasgow in 2014 after the world netball championships next year.

Anna competed in the Commonwealths in 2006 in athletics.

Speaking of her chances of lining out in Glasgow at the Commonwealths for the NI netball team, she said: “Who knows, it’s all early days and at the minute I’m just enjoying the training.”

Anna also competed in athletics at the European Indoor Championships in 2007, and came 12th in the 60m.

She never officially retired and has left the door open for a possible return to the track.

Anna, who holds the 100m NI record at 11.49 seconds, added: “I lost a bit of hunger for it and tried a few things and called it quits in July 2010.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done but there’s some things I could have run a bit faster and I did not get to the Olympics.”