Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Antrim ACHL Division 1

Action from Loughgiel as they take on Cushendall earlier in the season.

The 2017 Senior champions became the 2018 league champions as Cúchullain's Dunloy clinched the title ahead of fierce rivals Loughgiel Shamrocks. The league progressed mostly true to form, with the top four making up the SHC Semi-Finals in the autumn.

At the bottom, a keenly contested relegation battle also ensued, with Ballygalget and Rossa eventually taking the plunge in to the 2019 Division 2.

1st - Cúchullain's Dunloy - 21pts

Brimming with confidence after their title-winning season in 2017, Cúchullain's began the season in determined fashion and with Nigel Elliott replicating his sublime county form, Dunloy hit the ground running.

Ranking 4th in terms of goals scored, Dunloy more than often opted for the white flag and finished second only to Loughgiel on points scored. Defensively, the Cúchullain's boasted the tightest defence in the four divisions, shipping only 11 goals and were second overall to Ruairí Óg in terms of overall scores conceded.

The league title will be scant consolation to Dunloy who will be gunning to avenge their championship defeat to their fiercest of rivals Loughgiel Shamrocks in 2019.

2nd - Loughgiel Shamrocks - 20pts

In a fairly inconsistent league campaign, the Shamrocks managed to accrue enough points to finish as runners up to Dunloy, despite failing to win six times through the season.

Draws with Ruairí Óg, Portaferry, Ballycran and St John's proved costly in terms of the title but were good preparation for a championship run that took them all the way to the final, losing out to Ruairí Óg.

The league's highest goalscorers with 29 and point scorers with 194, Loughgiel looked to James McNaughton in his breakthrough season with club and county to lead the line, with the industrious Dan McCloskey supporting him well with vital scores.

The 2012 All-Ireland champions were also very sound defensively and had a combination of their dropped points through draws and two defeats to Dunloy saw them finish as runners up.

3rd - Ruairí Óg Cushendall - 18pts

Honours: Antrim Senior Hurling champions, Ulster Senior Hurling champions.

With four losses in the league, Ruairí Óg saw their league chances dissipate, with draws against Loughgiel and Dunloy seeing them finish in 3rd below them.

Their strong league position was built on a solid foundation as a defence boasting Sean Delargy and the two Burkes conceded the fewest points in the division and ranked joint first in terms of goals conceded along with Cúchullain's.

Cushendall went on to taste championship success, with Neil McManus and Conor Carson instrumental in their autumn performances.

4th - Naomh Eoin CLG - 17pts

Cementing their place in the top four hurling teams in the county, St John's finished in 4th place with a respectable overall score difference of +16. They were the second highest goalscorers in the division with 27 and ranked third in terms of points scored with 238.

Lively forwards Donal Carson, Michiail Dudley and the versatile Peter McCallin had fine seasons in blue and white, while the brothers Johnston were at their consistent best.

Defensively, the Whiterock men had a tendency to leak scores and it was this slight frailty that saw them finish outside the top three in the county, but their performances later in the championship showed that they are well capable of mixing it, and indeed should have beaten the Ulster and Antrim champions that afternoon in Dunloy.

5th - St Patrick's Portaferry - 11pts

Topping the trio of Down teams in Division 1 is Portaferry who crossed the line in 5th place. They ranked second from bottom in terms of goals scored and third from bottom for points scored, but it was their work-rate and determination not to concede easy points that propelled them into 5th, ranking 4th in the division for points conceded.

That defensive effort proved the difference between themselves and Down Senior champions Ballycran who finished just a single point behind their Ards rivals in 6th.

Ballycran did however pip them to the post in the Down county final, a late Conor Woods effort sealing the title.

6th - St Joseph's Ballycran - 10pts

Honours: Down Senior Hurling champions

They reached the Ulster final where they were defeated by Ruairí Óg, but in league action they could reasonably be classed as the 'nearly men'. They suffered narrow defeats in many games, including those against the top 4 and this is reflected in their score difference of -14, which ranks ahead of 5th placed Portaferry.

Young prodigy Phelim Savage continued to impress in midfield, while captain Michael Hughes and Sean Ennis ensured they were defensively sound, ranking 5th in terms of goals and points conceded.

St Joseph's are a young side on the up and will hope to break into the top five next season in Division 1.

7th - John Mitchell's Ballygalget - 8pts

A disappointing end to the season for Ballygalget as they are relegated to Division 2, trailing Ballycran by two points.

In Mark Fisher and Tim Prenter they have two fine hurlers who will be disappointed to have been relegated, but with an overall score difference of -89 they can have little argument. They ranked 7th in terms of points scored and 6th in terms of goals scored, ranking 7th for overall scored conceded.

Mitchell's also ranked 7th overall defensively in terms of scores conceded and they should, as they have done in the past, use Division 2 as a springboard to success in both Antrim and Down.

8th - O'Donovan Rossa - 6pts

A hugely disappointing season for O'Donovan Rossa who suffered greatly with loss of players since they shocked Antrim with their opening day victory over Cúhullain's on the Shaw's Road.

Scoring the least and conceding the most is a surefire way to get yourself relegated and that is how the season panned out for the club in both codes.

Their form did pick up towards the end of the season with the return of some of their important players, but it was too little too late and they will be hurling in Division 2 next season.

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Insatiable desire for statistics? Check out our Division 2, Division 3 and Division 4 reviews.