Williams hails Wee revival after 2015 'low point'
They call Semple Stadium the field of legends but when Louth's Anthony Williams left it after a qualifier defeat to Tipperary in 2015, he felt like he'd sullied the place.
A 23-point hammering brought Colin Kelly's first year in charge of the Wee County to an end. It was Williams' debut season, and the defeat left him wondering what the point of it all was.
"It was probably the lowest point in my career," recalls Williams. "I don't think we scored a point in the second half until the 31st minute. It was very embarrassing.
"I remember walking out and there were just people looking at us and thinking, 'we have come all the way down to Thurles to see these boys play and they have just gone out there and haven't shown up'.
"You take a look at yourself, you go back and reflect after that, after the football is over and it settles down, and you say, 'where are we at? What am I doing this for? Is it to win or is it just to come down and be embarrassed?'
That's why last month's win in Thurles was so significant for Louth.
Not only did it secure a second successive promotion, but it exorcised the demons of that 2015 defeat.
They won by four points, marking a 27-point swing.
"A lot of people probably looked on it as a bad omen going back down to Tipperary, needing to win this game for promotion but you can't base past results on how it's going to affect you playing today," said Williams, a former Drogheda United trainee.
"You are talking two years ago, a completely different team. But it was a great feeling to go down there and get the win, banish all the ghosts."
Kelly's rebuilding job has been significant.
He has consistently turned to young players. Two of last year's minors, Sam Mulroy and Ross Nally, have been fast-tracked straight into the senior team and have featured regularly in the League.
"They have done very well, but the thing about Colin Kelly is that he puts his trust in these young players and he brings them through, and it probably hadn't happened in Louth for a long time.
"When we were U-21s, we got to a Leinster final against Dublin, 2012, and not many of that young team bloomed through to the senior panel.
"But what Colin has done now is he is bringing young players through, getting them exposure to senior county football early… and the fact we are playing in Division 2 next year… all these young guys have this exposure to a winning team, winning mentality, every year, on and on, winning games and winning games, and it can only be good for them.
"In training they don't stand out, they don't look any different to the experienced players. It's really good."
This afternoon, Louth come to Croke Park looking for a second final win in 12 months, having beaten Antrim in the Division 4 decider last year.
"We have lost only two competitive games all year, (Dublin) in the O'Byrne Cup and against Armagh in the league.
"We have done well but we need to continue that.
"Really it's just a stepping stone and we need to continue that into the Championship. We have got promotion now.
"We need to focus in on the Championship."