Split Decisions in Antrim


Division 2 and 3 are coming to the sharp end of the split.

Last season in Antrim, the introduction of a split in the leagues added a layer of drama to league action, while also testing the mental arithmetic of all interested parties in the county.


This year the trend has continued and with one round of fixtures remaining in the county hurling leagues, most of which will take place today, there are a number of clubs still uncertain of how their second half of fixtures will fall.

Dunloy lead the way in convincing fashion in Divison 1 and along with St John's are confirmed in the top half, but the battle to avoid the bottom half is an interesting one.


With a game in hand, it looks likely that county champions Ruairí Óg will squeeze into that 5th spot, but they will be pushed all the way by both Ballycran and Ballycastle, who meet today in McKenna Park. To make things even more interesting, Ruairí Óg and Ballycran will face each other on Thursday in what will be Cushendall side's final game.


A win for Portaferry today over Rossa would be enough to confirm their top half status and should Loughgiel lose out to St John's this afternoon, the Down men could find themselves 3rd at the split.


At the foot of the table, the relegation battle looks like coming down to two of St Gall's, Rossa or Ballygalget. The Shaw's Road men currently sit top of that trio, but both Ballygalget and St Gall's hold a game in hand.


Both face a tough challenge this afternoon, the Ards men away to Cushendall and the Milltown Row side in Pearse Park, Dunloy, but their final game will be an old-fashioned four-pointer against each other in Belfast.


The stakes will be dizzying for those in the pressure-cooker of the bottom half come next weekend.


In Division 2, the title-chasing trio of Creggan, Sarsfields and Naomh Éanna are out in front as the Paddies prepare to welcome Kickham’s to the Bear Pit this afternoon.


Carey Faughs look to be all but safe in the top half, but will need to be wary nonetheless. Their victory over Glenariffe means that even if the Oisíns claim victory in their final game, a defeat for Carey in Hightown wouldn’t be enough to see the Glens men through.


Their opponents today, Dungannon, harbour their own hopes of pipping Oisín to 5th place, with a win today being enough to secure their place with one game still to play.


Whoever drops into the bottom five will face a dogfight as teams desperately scrap to maintain their Division 2 status. Cloughmills’ last-gasp victory in the last round has the potential to kick start their escape bid but today’s clash with Cloney Gaels will be vital.


Pointless Glen Rovers look to be in trouble at the foot of the table and their last game tomorrow evening is away to Tír na nÓg, who will be ravenous for points ahead of the upcoming relegation battle.

Gort na Móna can achieve the notable feat of going through the first half of the league with a 100% record if they defeat Cúchullain’s Armagh today in Páirc Mhic Ionnrachtaigh, while their closest challengers Cushendun are also confirmed in the top 5.


Joining them will be Down side Bredagh who host the Emmet’s this afternoon at Cherryvale, with both sides knowing a win will give them vital points heading into the title challenge.


Carryduff, Cúchullain’s and Glenarm are set to battle it out for that coveted final space in the top half. Shane O’Neill’s travel to Carryduff this afternoon knowing a win will help them leapfrog their opponents, but the Down men will have one final shot to regain their place as they host Bredagh next Monday evening.


A win for St Paul’s today against Na Magha should be enough to confirm their place in the top 5, while Cúchullain’s chance is the most remote as they face leaders Gort na Móna today.


St Mary’s Rasharkin narrowly missed out on the top half last year and a win in their final game next weekend over Lámh Dhearg would see them once again finish top of the bottom half facing into Championship. The Hannahstown men look destined for Division 4. They are yet to pick up a point and find themselves six points adrift of safety.


Na Magha have defied the odds and continued to field in the league, picking up three points along the way despite having to fulfil all their fixtures away from home.


The split has refreshed the league structure and in both football and hurling has definitely improved the standard of competition. When the dust has settled after next weekend, clubs will have a clear pathway of games as they prepare for championship while still chasing league glory.


#AntrimACHL

Dunloy, Ballymena

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