DROGHEDA Lightning secured the 2012 DV8s development league title last Sunday after this hard-fought win against Trim Bulldogs in neutral Belfast.
Having withdrawn from next weekend's scheduled game against Belfast Trojans to focus on getting ready for the step up to full elevens football next year, Lightning knew that only a victory over Trim would be enough to secure the championship at the second time of asking.
With all to play for against their fiercest rivals, the Lightning players needed little encouragement to take the game to the Meath side, but were left shell-shocked early in the first quarter when Trim took an eight-point lead, running the ball into the corner to put up the first touchdown before adding a two-point conversion.
Drogheda were not going to let Trim spoil their day, though, and quarterback Declan Mulvihill pushed the Bulldogs back with a succession of long and short gains. It was the running game, however, that was to provide the first Lightning points as Robert Shevlin powered through the Trim defence for his side's first touchdown.
On their next possession, the Bulldogs were once again able to put points on the board, when a long pass into loose Lightning coverage provided an easy route into the endzone for their second touchdown. Two successive penalties on the offence did nothing to stop them from converting the point after for one, and the title-chasing Drogheda side found themselves 15-6 down, well into the second quarter.
The Lightning needed a spark to ignite their game, and they got it in most unfortunate circumstances just before the break while defending just inside their own half. In the confusion of the ensuing play, Drogheda's Fergal Waters was hit hard, causing him to land heavily on his neck, and following a long period of on-field treatment, he was stretchered to a waiting ambulance and taken to the local hospital. With no medical personnel remaining behind, the game was suspended for 45 minutes until a new ambulance crew arrived.
By that time news that Fergal had been released from hospital had trickled trough to the Lightning players, and they took to the field with renewed vigour from the restart.
With Trim breathing down on the Drogheda endzone, the Lightning defence forced the ball to be turned over, and with just two minutes remaining in the half, the Lightning moved into a higher gear and put up two passing touchdowns to ensure they led at half-time.
The first touchdown, a deep pass to Matty Hagan, was exactly what the offence needed to settle their nerves after a few interceptions in the opening drives, and Robert Shevlin picked up the conversion for an extra point. The final score of the half was a carbon copy of the previous one as Hagan once again pulled in a Mulvihill pass to run in unchallenged to give Drogheda the lead for the first time in the game, 19-15.
In the second half the game became a much tighter affair, with both teams living and dying by their defence. It was Lightning that eventually made the breakthrough in the third quarter when Shevlin once more showed great agility on a running play to further the Drogheda lead, marking their third touchdown without reply.
The Bulldogs were not prepared to settle for second best, though, and after making a number of good gains on their next drive, they managed to pick up their third score of the game to leave just four points between the teams - 25-21.
But it was Drogheda who managed to make the final breakthrough. Relying once again on the running game, quarterback Mulvihill handed the ball off to Shevlin, and the 'Ardee Express' smashed through the defence to ensure the victory, with Ross Neville adding the point after.