DROGHEDA Lightning opened their 2012 DV8S account with a hard-fought victory over Trim Bulldogs in Trim on Sunday.
The visitors, who trailed by 12 points with just seven minutes to play, secured the victory with just seconds remaining in the game.
Drogheda started the stronger of the two sides, quickly opening up a 12-point lead by the midpoint of the first half. Conor Mccutcheon opened the scoring in the first quarter, latching onto a 26-yard pass from Declan Mulvihill, before the duo linked up again on the opening drive of the second quarter to extend the away team's lead.
Trim, however, remained resilient, and put their first points on the board on the next drive. Following a number of large gains, the hosts crossed the line to cut the deficit to just six points. However, from the ensuing conversion attempt Oisin Dowling pulled the ball out of the air and ran the length of the pitch to add a two-point safety, extending the visitors' lead once more to 14-6.
Not to be disheartened, Trim pressed hard over the ensuing drive, pushing the Lightning back towards their own endzone. After forcing the visitors to turn the ball over deep in their own half, the Bulldogs took advantage of the short field to once more eat into the Drogheda lead, scoring a touchdown to send the sides in 14-12 at the interval.
Buoyed by their efforts at the end of the first half, Trim began the second with renewed vigour. After limiting the visitors to just five yards on their opening drive of the third quarter, the Bulldogs put together an impressive drive to leave themselves in a good attacking position as the game entered the final 15 minutes. Not wasting the opportunity, the hosts took the lead for the first time by a margin of 18-14.
Just two minutes later, the game swung drastically in the hosts' favour, after they intercepted a pass close to the Lightning endzone. They duly turned the opening into an eight-point play, extending their lead to 26-14 with just under seven minutes left to play.
Things looked to be going from bad to worse for the Lightning when, on the next play, they once more turned the ball over to Trim in their own half.
With the game very quickly slipping from their grasp, the Drogheda defence took to the field and put in a drastically improved performance, though time was quickly slipping away from the visitors. Not too be outdone, however, the Lightning offense, seeming to draw on the determination of their defence, put in their best performance of the day.
With the game clock ticking just under the five-minute mark, Paul Keeley crossed into the Trim endzone to give a more respectable look to the scoreline.
Sensing that they might still take something from the game, Drogheda attacked the remaining time like a team transformed.
After the defence kept the Trim offence at bay on the following play, the offence, under the control of back-up quarterback Dan Finnamore, pushed forward to tie the game at 26-26 with less than two minutes to go, Matty Hagan getting onto the end of a 30-yard Finnamore pass to ensure a tense end to what had become a fine game of football.
While the Lightning defense was beginning to gain the upper hand over the Bulldogs offense, time was definitely against both sides.
After Trim's ensuing possession came to nought, Drogheda found themselves in possession, backed up and with only 38 seconds remaining on the clock. With the hard work of dragging themselves back into the game already done, the visitors pushed towards the Trim endzone, finding themselves within 20 yards of their goal with just six seconds left on the clock.
The occasion was appearing to take a toll on a rookie Lightning offense, as three consecutive penalties backed them up a cumulative 15 yards, seemingly sending the game towards a draw.
With the last play of the game, however, Matty Hagan pulled in a Dan Finnamore pass for his second touchdown of the game to send the Lightning crowd into raptures and cap off a remarkable fourth quarter.