Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Antrim Hurling

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

Action from the SHC Round Robin match between Dunloy and Cushendall.

There was joy in the Glens as both Cushendall and Cushendun claimed the Senior and Junior Hurling championships in the Saffron county, with St Gall's claiming the Intermediate crown on their way to Ulster glory.

Dunloy began the season as Senior champions, but after their defeat to Loughgiel in the Semi-Final, they had to make do with the U21 title they won earlier in the season.

Senior Hurling Championship

Winners - Ruairí Óg Cushendall

The 2018 Senior Hurling championship saw a new format, but the round robin did not manage to throw up any surprises, with the top four teams in the county contesting the Semi-Finals.

Naomh Eoin and Ballycastle drew the short straws and had to play out a two-legged Preliminary Round match, in which The Johnnies underlined their superiority over the Division 2 league champions, winning both games comfortably, despite the best efforts of Diarmaid McShane in the amber and black.

The result meant the Whiterock Road men took their place in the round robin series, which began in late August as Loughgiel recorded a comfortable victory over relegated Rossa. On the same day, the 2017 champions entered the fray, taking the points at Páirc Mhuire in a tentative affair against Ruairí Óg, a late Paul Shields free seeing Cúchullain's home.

In Round 2, the Shamrocks sealed their second win of the competition, narrowly defeating St John's, while Dunloy made light work of Sarsfields at Pearse Park, before there were victories for St John's and Ruairí Óg in Round 3 over Rossa and Sarsfields respectively.

With the group stages out of the way, St John's and Ruairí Óg met in Dunloy. A Donal Carson goal at the start of the second half had the Johnnies in a commanding position. Cushendall battled back, Donal McNaughton instrumental as they held the lead deep in stoppage time, only for a late, late Ciaran Johnston free to rescue a draw for his side.

The following day in Ballycastle, Dunloy lost their crown. Loughgiel Shamrocks shut down their free-flowing game and the accuracy of James McNaughton did the rest, his clinical finishing from frees seeing his side through to the final.

When Cushendall and St John's met in a replay, they produced another pulsating encounter in Ballycastle, the game ebbing and flowing until a Conor Carson brace finally saw Ruairí Óg through to meet Loughgiel.

The final itself saw Ruairí Óg take home the Volunteer Cup, with Carson again central to proceedings, but it was the performances of Neil McManus and goalscoring captain Paddy Burke that drove the narrative as the latter climbed the steps in Páirc Mhic Uilín to lift the title.

Burke repeated that a fortnight later in Armagh as his side saw off a dogged Ballycran to clinch an Ulster crown.

Intermediate Hurling Championship

Winners - Naomh Gall

The most competitive championship in the county, with twelve teams all realistically feeling they were in with a shout of lifting the trophy.

Division 3 champions Clooney Gaels staked an early claim with a demolition of Division 2 side St Brigid's Cloughmills, as James O'Connell lit up the Páirc Mhuire turf in a devastating display of attacking prowess.

In Ahoghill the following day, Lámh Dhearg were easily dispatched by Oisín Glenariffe and a Conor McCann-inspired Creggan saw off Glen Rovers Armoy, while up in Corrigan Park, St Gall's battled with 12 men through the wind and rain and eventually sent Gort na Móna packing.

That result set up a Quarter-Final meeting with Glenariffe for St Gall's and despite some frenetic opening exchanges, the Milltown Road side eventually took control, CJ McGourty's experience a telling factor as they made it to the last four.

Back in Ahoghill, Naomh Éanna made light work of Tír na nÓg in an all-Division 2 clash, while Kickham's Creggan proved too much for 12-man Rasharkin at Pearse Park, the Dreen side failing to retrieve their early-season form.

Carey Faughs clinched the last Semi-Final spot with a seven-point victory over Clooney Gaels, on whom they struggled to gain an upper hand in the league. Championship, as they say, is different.

Nevertheless, the Faughs' season came to an end in the last four as Creggan began to hit form, ripping through the Carey rearguard and raising eighteen white flags to record a double scores victory.

In the all-Belfast affair, Naomh Éanna fell to Naomh Gall by a six-point margin to see the Milltown Row side set up a final meeting with Creggan, a game they won at a blustery Hannahstown to take the title.

Mickey Culbert's side followed up their county success with an Ulster title, defeating Lisbellaw, Swatragh and Keady en route to the silverware.

Junior Hurling Championship

Winners - Robert Emmett's Cushendun

Six teams made up the Junior Hurling championship, with Junior B champions All Saints' joining the fray at the Quarter-Final stage against eventual winners Cushendun, with the Emmett's recording an eleven-point victory in a high-scoring encounter at Armoy.

In the other Quarter-Final, St Paul's defeated Con Magees with ten points to spare to set up a Semi-Final meeting with Cushendun back in Armoy, which the North Antrim side again won comfortably to see them through to the final.

There they would meet Shane O'Neill's Glenarm, who defeated St Teresa's under the Ballymena floodlights, Daniel Black inspiring his side to victory with an unerring free-taking display.

The final itself saw Robert Emmett's hit 1-23 in very challenging conditions on their way to victory, David Kilgore starring as Cushendun ended years of hurt to take the title.

Their Ulster campaign ended in heartbreak right at the death in Armagh, a late Fergal Rafter free winning the title for Castleblayney after Emmett's had seen off Na Magha and Sean Tracey's to reach the decider.

Junior B Hurling Championship

Winners - All Saints' Ballymena

In their first season back competing in the All-County Hurling leagues, All Saints' had plenty to celebrate, clinching the Junior B title.

With four teams competing, a double-bill at Tír na nÓg hosted the Semi-Finals. In the first game, Loch Mór Dál gCais suffered a heavy defeat against St Agnes', the Belfast side hitting 5-28 on the way to the final.

The Ballymena side came through a bruising encounter with Davitt's in the second game, Ciarán Neeson firing them into the final, with Ryan McGarry also starring at half-back.

In the final, All Saints' recorded a comfortable victory over St Agnes' and went on to represent the county in the All-Ireland Junior B series, hosted by the Killeedy club in Limerick. The Ballymena men saw off Coolderry of Offaly in their first match, but Galway side Ballindereen proved a step too far for the Antrim champions.

U21 Hurling Championship

Winners - Cúchullain's Dunloy

No Senior title for Dunloy in 2018, but the conveyor belt continued to roll as they captured the U21 title.

With many of the senior side still involved at this level, Cúchullain's beat off competition from Ruairí Óg in the opening round before narrowly defeating Loughgiel in the Semi-Final.

Ballycastle came into the final full of confidence on the back of a morale-boosting Semi-Final win over St John's, but came up short as a rampant Cúchullain's took a 2-21 to 1-12 victory and claimed another title for the village of Dunloy.

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How did the leagues go? Read all about Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 and Division 4.