Irish Premiership: Crusaders are crowned champions

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Crusaders are crowned Irish Premiership champions

Crusaders have won the Irish Premiership title by coming from behind to win 2-1 away to Ballymena United.

The Belfast team finished the 38-match campaign two points ahead of Coleraine, who drew 0-0 away to third-placed Glenavon.

Philip Lowry and David Cushley scored for the Crues after Cathair Friel had given Ballymena the lead.

At the bottom Ballinamallard United were relegated on goal difference despite beating Glentoran 3-1.

Relive the drama of an exciting climax to the Irish Premiership

The Mallards finished level on points with Carrick Rangers who will now face Championship runners-up Newry in the promotion/relegation play-off.

Crusaders won 28 of their 38 matches in the league season
Crusaders won 28 of their 38 matches in the league season

Crusaders' title triumph was their third in four seasons and the seventh in the Seaview club's history.

Coleraine, third last season, lost just one game but drew 11 matches during the exciting Premiership campaign.

"It is obviously disappointing when you get to this stage but I have a huge amount of pride in the team and the players should be proud of themselves," said Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney.

"We started the game well and Jonathan Tuffey made a great save while Darren McCauley hit the bar.

"It is the fine margins that decide titles.

"I would like to congratulate Stephen Baxter and his Crusaders team. It has been a great fight and they are worthy champions."

Coleraine missed out on the championship despite losing just one match all season
Coleraine missed out on the championship despite losing just one match all season

Jubilant boss Baxter, in charge of the Crues since 2005, said: "Nothing was going to be given to us and you saw what it meant to Ballymena when they scored but I felt we earned the victory.

"We came at them with everything we had in the last 10 or 15 minutes, and this group of players deserve it.

"Coleraine have also been magnificent and it is difficult for someone to have to lose it on the final day - we had to endure it last year.

"Of the three championships we have won, this was the best one, for me."

Glenavon finished third - two points ahead of last year's champions Linfield who lost 2-1 at home to Cliftonville.

Ballinamallard were relegated after six years in Northern Ireland's top division
Ballinamallard were relegated after six years in Northern Ireland's top division

The Blues had Robert Garrett sent-off for a bad tackle before Jude Winchester and Daniel Reynolds scored for the Irish Cup finalists Cliftonville.

Blues defender Jimmy Callacher scored in the second half but it was not enough to prevent an 11th league defeat of the season for David Healy's team.

Ballinamallard's late-season revival under Harry McConkey continued with a 3-1 win away to Glentoran, but they were relegated on goal difference because one-from-bottom Carrick beat Warrenpoint 3-2.

"I've had eight matches and one defeat, but eight great performances to be truthful," said McConkey, who took over as manager in March when the Mallards were seven points adrift with eight fixtures left.

"When I came in and my remit was that if we were going down we wouldn't do it with a whimper, and we didn't."

Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 28 April
SECTION A
Ballymena Utd1-2Crusaders
Glenavon0-0Coleraine
Linfield1-2Cliftonville
SECTION B
Ards3-4Dungannon Swifts
Glentoran1-3Ballinamallard Utd
Warrenpoint Town2-3Carrick Rangers

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