James Califf on Louth’s rise towards Division 2 summit – ‘Promotion was definitely in mind’
James Califf’s return between the Louth posts has coincided with the unlikeliest of promotion pushes – a feat which the Dreadnots clubman believes was the side’s aim since returning to training last winter.
The 33-year-old has togged out for the Reds in three of the National League’s four divisions and is hoping to secure top-flight football for the first time in his career at Croke Park on Sunday, when Louth take on Dublin.
It is a must-win encounter for the Wee men if they are to complete a dramatic ascension having been toiling in the bottom tier as recently as 2021. A victory would also seal the fifth promotion of the Clogherhead-native’s career.
“Promotion was definitely in mind and I think it was in minds at the start of the year as well, to be honest,” Califf said.
“As the cliché goes, we were taking it one game at a time, but everything was building towards this and during the week, we were definitely looking at taking aim at the Dubs.
“It’s about the big picture and what an event to look forward to at Croke Park.
“We seem to have a slow start every year to the league but momentum is a dangerous thing and we’re after getting a couple of results. There was a lot of work being done on the training ground around the first couple of games and we just weren’t getting the results, but it’s nice the way everything has sort of clicked.
“I’m not saying it was a pretty performance against Cork but it was about getting over the line and as Gavin (Devlin – team trainer) said at half-time, it was about having a bit of personality and stepping up the challenge.
“Collectively, which is what the whole thing is about, the depth we have in the panel, it’s really showing through.”
The tall custodian highlighted Louth’s ever-growing resilience as a key factor in the recent successes and feels it has been significant to how the Reds have rattled perceived stronger opposition this term.
“We were written off here – 5/2 in the bookies – but we’re now becoming a tough team to play against and whatever happens now happens, we’re starting to build something,” he added.
“Everyone, from one to 30-odd, knows they have a chance of playing. You see Oisín McGuinness coming off the bench and winning a few vital balls – he hadn’t featured over the last couple of games. Everyone knows that each week is different.
“You could probably say a lot of the teams we have played in Division 2 this year, man for man, they may have better players, but they haven’t got a better system than we have and we’re gradually becoming harder to beat.
“Of all the teams I’ve been involved with, I’ve never seen a buy-in like it and even when we were losing games, we were still battling hard and looking forward to the challenge every week.
“It’s a really good place to be at the minute.”
Not as good as it would be in Division 1, however.