Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Antrim ACFL Division 2

Updated: Dec 19, 2018

Antrim's second tier went right to the wire, with Tír na nÓg, St Brigid's and Gort na Móna all in the running for the title on the final day of the season. Two into three doesn't go however and there was heartbreak for Randalstown, delight for promoted Naomh Bríd and the ecstasy of title success for the men from Turf Lodge.

At the opposite end O'Donnell's hurtled through the trapdoor with a negative points total. They were joined by St Paul's, the Shaw's Road side suffering relegation to the bottom tier of Antrim football in a turn of events that would have been unthinkable at the turn of the millennium.

1st - Gort na Móna - 24pts

It was in Moneyglass where fantasy turned to reality for the disco-loving Turf Lodge men, as their final day victory over St Ergnat's saw them put the disappointment of losing the IFC final behind them to clinch promotion to the top flight.

Ranked only third for points scored and fourth for goals scored, four wins from their last four games saw them take the title, with Pádraig McHugh and Shane Scullion's goals proving crucial to the success.

They will hope to take their momentum from the dramatic climax to Division 2 into next season's Division 1 and compete from the beginning.

2nd - St Brigid's Belfast - 24pts

Honours: U21 Football Championship winners.

Ranked third in terms of goals scored and only 7th for white flags raised, the Malone Road men upset the odds to clinch second place with a final day victory against promotion rivals Tír na nÓg.

Ronan McGrady proved the danger man for the Biddies throughout the season and hit 1-03 in the final game to see his side over the line, despite a late Whitehill rally. In their 20th year, St Brigid's will be thrilled to return to the top flight and claim the U21 crown in the same season.

3rd - Tír na nÓg - 22pts

With the tightest defence in the league, ranking 1st in overall scores conceded, the Randalstown side will be bitterly disappointed to have come up short in the final game of the season.

Far from being a solely defensive outfit, the Whitehill men ranked second in terms of overall scores, with Kevin Sheerin and Aaron McNeilly leading the line well.

Consequently they had the league's second highest score difference, but when the chips were down on the day of reckoning, they came up short and will spend at least another season in Division 2.

4th - Naomh Séamas Aldergrove - 22pts

Having been at the summit for a considerable time over the course of the season, the Aldergrove men tailed off as it progressed to finish in 4th place.

With Brian McQuillan excelling in midfield and Andrew Flood a lively outlet in the full forward line, Naomh Séamas were a confident outfit, but their scoring return ultimately saw them finish outside the coveted top two.

They were very defensively sound, ranked second in terms of scores conceded, and if they can build on that strong core and add a few more scores, they could be contenders for the title again in 2019.

5th - St Ergnat's Moneyglass - 15pts

Similarly to Aldergrove, St Ergnat's suffered a mid-season collapse having been right among the front runners in the early stages.

In Dermot McErlain, the South West side had pace in the forward line and added power and guile with Seanchann and Tiernan Duffin around the middle, but ranked only 8th in terms of overall scores.

Their porous defence did little to aid their promotion battle, and they finished the season ranked a lowly 10th in terms of scores conceded and 9th on overall score difference. They will earmark this for development next season.

6th - Cúchullain's Dunloy - 14pts

The Cúchullain's were involved in an infamous opening day battle with All Saints' Ballymena, where they managed to snatch victory without troubling an umpire's shoulder, as they hit two goals in the closing stages to claim the win on a scoreline of 3-0 to 0-08.

Described by Brendan McTaggart of Saffron Gael as 'Dick Turpin' on the back of that win, the Dunloy men pickpocketed another two vital points against Sarsfields a few weeks later in the Bear Pit, but their refusal to accept defeat saw them claim a top 6 spot.

Ranking 11th for overall points scored and 8th for overall points conceded underlines their difficulties, but with Kevin McAllister and Declan McGarry in consistent form the Cúchullain's managed to secure a top-half finish.

7th - All Saints' Ballymena - 17pts

The Ballymena men made the most of their surprise finish in the bottom half by going on to record the league's highest overall score, ranking 5th in the county in this regard.

A team racked with talent, including Connell Lemon, former Antrim star Sean McVeigh and Patrick McAleer, they also finished with the division's highest score difference, but having ranked 5th in terms of overall scores conceded, it was this slight frailty that saw them finish 7th.

They will hope to make a better start to next season's league and lay down a title challenge.

8th - Pádraig Sairséil CLG - 15pts

The Bear Pit is an intimidating place to visit on a good day, but the Paddies failed to make it a fortress in 2018, with half of their losses coming at home.

One of many clubs with a proud dual status, they struggled to manage both codes as injuries began to pile up. Kevin McKernan and Darragh McGuinness performed strongly, and with a strong group coming through at Minor level under the guidance of Michael Gerard Doherty, Sarsfields will look to build for the future in 2019.

9th - Michael Davitt's - 15pts

As the division reached the split, Belfast side Davitt's harboured hopes of clinching a top-half spot, but a comprehensive defeat away to Dunloy saw them slip into the bottom six.

Goalkeeper Aaron Slane was a notable performer throughout the season with a number of frees finding the target, while up front Gerard Nugent and Christopher Rafferty led the attacking threat.

Ranking 11th in terms of goals conceded and 9th overall, Davitt's will be content enough to finish above Rasharkin, St Paul's and O'Donnell's in 9th.

10th - St Mary's Rasharkin - 15pts

Despite morale-boosting victories against rivals Dunloy and Moneyglass, St Mary's missed out on the top 6 after a comprehensive defeat at the hands of All Saints'.

In Ryan Lynch, Enda McFerran and Eamonn McNeill, they had plenty of firepower up front and ranked 5th in terms of overall points scored.

Defensively though they will not be pleased, ranking second from bottom to O'Donnell's, who were relegated with some games to spare, and shipping 294 points in the process.

Historically a less than favoured away destination, St Mary's lost three key games at Dreen and will be hoping to rectify this in 2019.

11th - St Paul's - 9pts

St Paul's will be devastated to be relegated to the bottom tier of Antrim football, having historically been one of the stronger teams in the county.

Curiously, they ranked 6th in terms of overall scores conceded and were relatively sound defensively, but their problems were in the attacking half of the field where they ranked 9th in terms of overall points scored.

The defining factor of the Shaw's Road men's season was the amount of games they lost by a small margin. Famously lauded by Tony D'Amato, those inches add up and in this case, despite their best efforts, they totalled relegation.

12th - Cardinal O'Donnell's - -1pts

A sorry season for the men from the Whiterock Road who failed to register a single point and finished in negative equity by virtue of a failure to field.

Capable at times of some flowing football, the O'Donnell's men fared better in the Junior Championship, defeating Naomh Comhghall in a pulsating encounter, with Pádraig McKissock to the fore, before falling in the Semi-Final to a strong Con Magee's side.

They will hope to rebuild from Division 3.

#AntrimACFL #UnitUpdates

Want some context? Read our Division 1 and Division 3 Season Reviews.