Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Antrim ACFL Division 1

CJ McGourty swings over a free for Naomh Gall against Lámh Dhearg in Hannahstown.

In Antrim's top flight, Kickham's Creggan made up for the heartbreak of county final defeat to take the title ahead of St Gall's with the Loughshore side only losing twice in league action all season.

There was disappointment at the bottom for Rossa and Glenavy, who found themselves heading for Division 2, with the Belfast men suffering the ignominy of being relegated in both codes in 2018.

1st - Kickham's Creggan - 28pts

Honours: O'Cahan Cup winners

Runners-up in the Senior Championship, Kickham's were defeated only twice in league action, losing out away to St Gall's and to parish rivals Cargin.

With Kevin Madden at the helm, that consistency aided Creggan as they embarked on their campaign, managing their dual status well to reach county finals in both codes.

Captained by corner back Conor McCann, they managed to play some attractive football during the league, with talented forwards Liam Quinn and Kevin Small helping to ensure they were the division's top scorers and their rank of second for scores conceded was enough to see them clinch the title.

2nd - Naomh Gall - 24pts

The Milltown Row side's season will be defined by that epic Semi-Final against Cargin and that Tomás McCann goal, but the 2010 All-Ireland champions went some way to restoring their dented pride from the previous season.

Playing some scintillating football, Naomh Gall won their first ten games, before being surprised by Casement's Portglenone at the beginning of July.

Eoghan McCabe's pace caused many teams problems, while the guile of Sean Kelly, Kevin Niblock and CJ McGourty also helped bring through some of the younger players, but their season ultimately came unstuck and they finished runners-up to Creggan.

3rd - Erin's Own Cargin - 23pts

Honours: Antrim Senior Football champions

Under the stewardship of Bellaghy's Damian Cassidy, Erin's Own managed to clinch the county championship, but injuries and unavailability had a big influence on their league campaign.

The core of Crozier, Scullion, O'Boyle and the McCann brothers were again key for Cargin, but they were aided by breakthrough seasons for Jamie Gribbin and Ciaran Bradley.

The league's 4th highest scorers were only ranked 7th in terms of scores conceded, the unsettled nature of their team throughout the league possibly a contributing factor.

4th - Naomh Eoin CLG - 19pts

The toughest defence in the league, the Corrigan Park side ranked 5th in terms of overall scores and will be mindful that with a slightly sharper cutting edge, they could have pushed on and challenged for league glory.

Brian Neeson continues to lead the line for Naomh Eoin, with ample support from county stars Matt Fitzpatrick and Patrick McBride, while that tight defence is manned by Aaron Douglas and Ciaran Johnston.

With the division's second best score difference, the 2017 county finalists will be hopeful of challenging in 2019.

5th - Lámh Dhearg - 16pts

2017 Senior champions Lámh Dhearg were dealt a blow midway through the season as star man Conor Murray suffered a serious injury on county duty.

Struggling to hit the heights of the previous season, the scoring burden often fell on Paddy Cunningham, and the Hannahstown men ranked 8th in terms of overall points scored. Defensively, they ranked slightly better in 6th, with the tenacious Aaron McAufield and Marc McGarry to the fore.

Lámh Dhearg will have expected a dip after the highs of clinching a long-awaited Senior title in 2017, but plans will no doubt be afoot on the Hill for a return to glory in 2019.

6th - Roger Casement's Portglenone - 16pts

A solid season for the Portglenone men as they finished in the top half of the division. Ranked 5th in terms of scores conceded, they were also the league's second highest scorers with 270 points, second only to winners Creggan.

With Niall McKeever again the key man for Casement's, they will be satisfied with the younger players that they are integrating into the team, and with recent development around the club, they will again be looking to the future in 2019.

7th - Naomh Éanna - 15pts

Honours: Antrim Intermediate Football champions, Ulster Intermediate Football champions

A superb season for the Glengormley men saw them go all the way to an Ulster title after winning their maiden Antrim championship title with a win over Gort na Móna. League-wise, Frank Fitzsimon's men started brightly, a victory over Cargin the highlight of their early campaign.

Naomh Éanna's confidence grew as the year progressed and their younger players began to mature. Odhran Eastwood and Eoin Nagle proved a handful for many defences, while the return of Joe Maskey from injury was another boost for the Hightown men.

Having narrowly missed out on the top six, they will be hoping to make an impact in both Division 1 and Senior Championship next season.

8th - St Mary's Aghagallon - 13pts

A fairly consolidatory season for St Mary's who avoided relegation reasonably comfortably. They ranked 7th in terms of overall scores and 8th for scores conceded.

Gareth Magee provided their main attacking threat and goalkeeper Gavin O'Neill proved a superb shot-stopper on a number of occasions.

Ranking 9th for goals scored, the Aghagallon men will hope to become more familiar with the opposition net in 2019.

9th - St Mary's Ahoghill - 13pts

Competing admirably in both codes for a number of years, Ahoghill will be pleased to have avoided relegation to Division 2.

Ranked 3rd in terms of goals conceded, St Mary's had a determined rearguard, Stephen O'Connell and Bernard Graham manning the defence effectively.

Ranking 11th for overall scores, the Cloney men's area for development is clear and they will need more scores if they are to have an impact in 2019.

10th - Naomh Treasa - 11pts

Avoiding relegation by two points, the Glen Road side ranked 10th in terms of overall scores and will need more firepower if they are to repeat the feat next season, with free-scoring neighbours Gort na Móna on the way to the top flight.

In contrast, their defence ranked 4th in terms of points conceded overall and this is an area of strength for Naomh Treasa who are frugal in their approach.

Philly Maguire continues to put in consistent performances for St Teresa's, while Colm McGoldrick adds support effectively.

11th - O'Donovan Rossa - 9th

As with their hurlers, the loss of key men hit Rossa hard throughout the season and ultimately saw them relegated despite a late up-turn in form.

Defensively, they ranked 10th in the division and fared even more positively in terms of overall scores, ranking 9th, but it was results in the crucial fixtures that let them down.

Despite the best efforts of Chris Beattie, Dominic McEnhill and Sean Pat Donnelly, the Shaw's Road men will ply their trade in next season's Division 2.

12th - St Joseph's Glenavy - 5pts

Relegated with a few games to spare, St Joseph's will be disappointed in their 2018 season, their two victories coming over Ahoghill and Rossa, where a four-goal salvo saw them over the line.

They were the league's lowest scorers and had statistically the worst-performing defence. With only two victories throughout the year, they can have little complaints and will hope to rebuild next season from the second tier.

#AntrimACFL #UnitUpdates

If this is the top tier, what happened in the other divisions?! Find out what happened in Division 2 and Division 3 by following the links!