Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Antrim ACHL Division 2

Pre-season favourites Mac Uilín Ballycastle lived up to their billing by winning Division 2 to make an immediate return to the top flight, and were joined by Intermediate champions St Gall's.

The bottom of this tight division saw a real dogfight between Sarsfields, Glen Rovers and Oisín, with the latter coming strong towards the end of the year to escape the trapdoor.

1st - Mac Uilín Ballycastle - 23pts

Returning to the top division at the first time of asking was Mac Uilín Ballycastle. The North coast men were the league's top scorers and had five points to spare at the top, their only defeat coming late in the season against relegation-threatened Oisín Glenariffe. With the team sprinkled with youth, Tiarnan Butler led the line from full-forward with Diarmaid McShane enhancing his reputation as an excellent free-taker. They were also solid defensively, ranking 1st in terms of scores conceded, Matthew Donnelly marshalling the square effectively.

2nd - Naomh Gall - 18pts

Honours: Antrim Intermediate Hurling champions, Ulster Intermediate Hurling champions

A fine season for the Milltown Row side saw them not only seal promotion to Division 1, but clinch both the Antrim and Ulster IHC titles en route. With Mark Napier leading the line from corner-forward and the experienced CJ and Kieran McGourty in the three-quarter line, the team was well balanced. Karl Stewart brought a wealth of experience to the attack while Jackson McGreevy contributed with numerous bursts from midfield.

Naomh Gall started poorly, but as the season wore on they began to put some excellent performances together, and only lost once in the second half of the season, to a Sarsfields side threatened by the drop.

Mickey Culbert's men will face the poisoned chalice of Division 1 league and Senior Championship next season as they prepare to lock horns again with the upper echelons of Antrim hurling.

3rd - Naomh Éanna - 14pts

While their footballers' exploits were well documented, last year's IHC finalists had a solid season under Tom McGilligan's stewardship as he guided them to a 3rd place finish. Losing Joe Maskey to injury early in the season was a blow for the Glengormley men, but with Killian and Cormac Jennings in their ranks they had ample reinforcement.

Naomh Éanna's defence ranked only 5th in the league in terms of goals conceded and their negative overall score difference reflects this. It's an area they will look to develop as they launch a fresh assault on the division next season.

4th - Tír na nÓg - 13pts

Still in the race for second place for much of the season, the Whitehill men pulled up short of the line in the final few weeks. Kevin Sheerin continued to spearhead their attack and his accuarcy from frees was vital to driving Tír na nÓg forward.

The Randalstown men were also very strong defensively, their goals conceded total only bettered by Ballycastle, as Colm Duffin patrolled at centre-back to ensure very little got through to the danger area.

In terms of points conceded, alarmingly for Tír na nÓg, they ranked bottom in the league with the most conceded and they may need to take steps to prevent teams picking off points from range.

5th - St Brigid's Cloughmills - 13pts

Ranking 4th for goals scored in the league, St Brigid's were confident in finding the net, with marquee forward Liam Kearns continuing to drive them forward. Worryingly for the Cloughmills men though, they ranked second from bottom for points scored, despite the free-taking efforts of Michael Devlin.

Defensively, there is much room for improvement, with the Biddies shipping 26 goals, the highest total goals conceded in Division 2, and indeed their total scores conceded was the highest in the division, with only Sarsfields below them on score difference.

6th - Oisín Glenariffe - 12pts

Tom, Dick and Harry featured prominently in Oisín Glenariffe's final few games in the season as they negotiated their very own version of the Great Escape. With the third highest goals total, it was their shyness in front of the posts that saw them in the lower reaches of the league, ranking 6th in terms of points scored.

Defensively, Oisín were actually quite solid, ranking 4th in Division 2 for points conceded and they rescued their Division 2 status with a late victory over champions and neighbours Ballycastle.

7th - Pádraig Sairséil CLG - 12pts

Last season's Intermediate champions suffered relegation to the third tier of Antrim hurling, despite a late rally in which they defeated St Gall's and Tír na nÓg. Led all season by the impressive McKernans, Kevin and Daniel, Na Sairséiligh had a difficult year.

Balancing the commitments of a dual club again proved difficult for the Belfast men, who were the lowest overall scorers in Division 2, and they also finished with the lowest score difference in the division.

Sarsfields had the honour of competing in Senior Championship, where they faced Dunloy and Cushendall in their group.

8th - Glen Rovers Armoy - 7pts

A poor year for Glen Rovers who will play in Division 3 next season following their relegation. The nature of the league meant their descent was a prolonged one, remaining in contention until late in the season, with a fractious win in August over Sarsfields keeping their hopes alive.

Ranking 5th for score difference, the Armoy men can thank Owen Kinney and Johnny McErlain for keeping the board ticking over, but this was largely a result of a combatant defence who ranked 5th for points conceded and 3rd for goals conceded in Division 2.

They will have to take that defensive solidity into Division 3 and hope to build on their attacking threat to achieve an immediate promotion.

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Tickled your statistical taste buds? Have a read at our Division 3 and Division 4 reviews.