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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK

Holly's absence is a big blow

Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games gymnastics team are doing their best to cope with the withdrawal of Holly Murdock through injury.

A leg problem forced 18-year-old Murdock to pull out of the tournament last week.

She had been a gold medal contender after finishing 14th in the individual all-around competition at last year's World Championships.

Now the NI team must now make do and mend without her.

'Massive setback'

Head coach Tony Byrne said: "The heart and soul was knocked out of the team when Holly went.

"Northern Ireland only has a population of 1.5million and we only have one superstar.

"When that superstar goes it is a massive setback.

"Losing Holly was such a shock to the team because the younger members were only going to compete in one or two disciplines and we were concentrating on that.

'Biggest effect'

"We had already suffered one injury blow when Marisha McConvey broke two fingers but we were looking to Holly, Victoria (Martin) and Katie (Slader) to put in big performances.

"Holly's injury has had the biggest effect on our number two VictoriaMartin.

"She could, in effect, hide behind Holly and perform quite solidly because she was not expected to perform wonderfully.

"But with Holly going we have noticed she has gone into her shell somewhat.

"It is only in the last couple of days that she has started to find her feet again."

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