“We were playing teams that were significantly higher than our own position last year,” she tells TheScore.ie. “This year, although we’re playing some teams that are in a higher ranking position than us, we also have an opportunity to play some teams that we’re ranked closer towards and we would expect to be winning those matches.“Winning will help us to achieve our aim of climbing up the world ranking table and increasing the profile of netball within Ireland.”The aim of the team at the very least is to finish fifth overall (out of six teams), and ideally to pick up “a number of victories”. Doing so would provide concrete evidence to outsiders that they have developed from last year.“The team are really prepared,” Allan adds. “They’ve been working towards the tournament for the past year. They’re very focused.”The sport, which started off in the Republic of Ireland in the 1960s, has suffered in recent years — a problem Allan puts down to “competition” from alternative sports, among other issues.However, she hopes participation in high-profile tournaments, such as the Nations Cup, will help raise awareness of the sport in this country. Moreover, Netball Ireland remains a voluntary organisation, who aren’t formally recognised by the Irish Sports Council for a number of reasons, including lack of global coverage. Nevertheless, they are currently seeking funding, as such cash injections would be enormously beneficial to their cause. THE IRISH NETBALL team are set to compete in the Nations Cup in Singapore this week, with the competition due to get underway this Sunday.The event is the only major tournament involving countries from around the world in the sport aside from the World Cup, with the Irish team serving as Europe’s representatives.It is the second successive year that Ireland are competing at the week-long event, and the side are set to face champions and hosts, Singapore, in addition to Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Uganda and the United States of America, from 1 December onwards.Liz Allan of the Netball Ireland Committee says the team are optimistic that they can improve on last year’s performance, whereby they failed to win a game. Nevertheless, Ireland will have to fight for each victory, as they are the lowest-ranked team competing apart from Uganda (who have no ranking due to lack of experience). “We have been promoted within the European Championship set up, so we’ll now be playing against Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So that gives the team confidence that they have improved. So we just have to play these matches now to find out how much of an improvement we’ve made.”The upcoming event will also serve as vital preparation for the all-important World Cup qualifiers next May. The Irish team will be competing against the likes of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, with the top two sides subsequently earning a place at the sport’s most illustrious competition, which will take place in the summer of 2015 in Australia.However, for now, they are focusing on the task at hand.“Singapore, as the host nation, would be hoping to win, but that’s a difficult one [to predict] and it’s not a given. There are a few countries, such as Uganda, who are unknown in terms of their abilities.“I would be delighted if we come away with more than one victory. It would be great if we could come away with all victories, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, because it’s a five-day competition where you’ve got matches all the time and scorelines can be quite tight sometimes.“The European netball body want to improve from last year’s position. The European federation will be happy if we come fifth or higher [which would likely require just one win]. That will demonstrate that we’ve made the improvements that they want to see to up the profile of the sport in Europe.”Details on how to help fund the team can be found here.Follow the side on Twitter at @NetballIreland or by liking their Facebook pageYou can also find out more information about the Nations Cup here.IAFL member talks Croke Park Classic, growth of American Football in Ireland>TheScore.ie readers pick their cruellest moments in Irish sporting history> “We have a sponsor for our playing kit and our training kit and that money allows us to enter these tournaments,” Allan explains. “If we were to secure this money by government means or lottery grants, we would be allowed to have a person working for us full time [to help promote the sport]. We have volunteers at the moment to do the work that we need to do. We find it difficult to find the continuity needed for getting the work done, as we just don’t have that full-time representation.“Having someone working for the association, such as a CEO, puts a bit of structure behind where we’re going — it’s about having a strategy and having that continuity.”(Image credit: Netball Ireland)Lately, there has been substantial effort towards recruiting new members. The association have club teams operating in Dublin and Cork, with a league having been in place for many years, while a drive to attract children to the sport is proving to be a success.“We have relatively small participation numbers in Ireland. And we’re trying to improve that by reintroducing netball back into schools. It started off in the Dublin area so it’s going to move to Cork next.“We’ve had a good response from teachers. We’re offering free coaching in schools and it seems to be going down very well.”And the headway being made at grassroots level is ostensibly being emulated by the Irish side on the international stage.The team emerged unbeaten in their division at the 2013 Netball Europe Open Championships, which took place in Scotland at the end of May, and will be hopeful that they can build on that success throughout the next week.“They have had successes in European tournaments, where Ireland have repeatedly beaten all of the opposition they’ve played against. That includes Israel, Switzerland, Malta and Gibraltar — and that’s been the case for the past couple of years.