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Sunday 17 November 2019

White aches to join Kerry league quest

Crokes star craving belated NFL debut once his All-Ireland club odyssey ends

Dr Crokes’ Gavin White
Dr Crokes’ Gavin White

There is no shortage of great white hopes in Kerry football right now, but Gavin White is slightly different to many fellow graduates from the school of all-conquering minors.

You see, White has already played senior championship to such a high level that he earned an All Star nomination after a summer in which Kerry effectively bombed in the Super 8s.

And yet this All-Ireland minor medallist from 2014 and '15 has never played a single minute of league football with the Kingdom.

That's something he wants to change in a hurry - even though his only priority between now and Sunday week is Dr Crokes' attempt to recapture the Andy Merrigan Cup at the expense of holders Corofin.

But once that AIB All-Ireland club senior football final between the last two winners is put to bed, White will be raising his hand for immediate inclusion in Kerry's quest for Allianz League glory.

Rookie

It's a curious quirk that, as he contemplates his fourth year of involvement with the senior panel, he remains a league rookie.

"Look, that's the reason I'm looking forward to it after Patrick's Day - I want to play league football," he declares. "It is a different type of football to championship, so we're hoping that Paddy's Day goes well and, who know, we might be out the following week against Roscommon.

"That's down to Peter (Keane) and the management but I'm more than willing to go back in."

White's first county call-up came in 2016, from Eamonn Fitzmaurice. "I was doing my Leaving Cert so I missed the national league. I was called in for the summer. Kind of feeling my way around and getting some experience," he recalls.

"The following year, 2017, we were on a similar run with the club as at the moment and we got to Paddy's Day. I missed the whole league again, and it was obviously hard for a new player to break onto the panel for the championship after that, so I was there again tipping around for the summer.

"I missed the national league again last year through injury, but thankfully I made a stamp and got my championship debut against Clare last year in the Stadium."

He was one of seven players to make his SFC debut that day.

"It was my first real football game, from a competitive point of view, since Nemo before the Christmas," he recounts. "There was pressure on me ... when it is your debut there will be more. There was pressure on Eamonn as well. There were question marks as to why I was thrown in with so little senior football in me. Thankfully I did all right."

Immediate opportunities for this sleek-running half-back to break his NFL duck are relatively scarce: after the club final, Kerry will only have one regulation round (in Roscommon) and a probable Division 1 final (given Kerry are four points clear of the pack).

Humdinger

There is the beguiling prospect of a Dublin-Kerry decider. White, who attended last month's humdinger in Tralee, enthuses: "An absolutely brilliant game to watch, serious competition, two brilliant teams going at it fire and tongs. At the end of the day, both teams know it's only February ... both teams were missing a number of players so they know that it might be scratching the surface."

Would Kerry fancy a league final rematch?

"I would say so, yeah. We'd be more concentrating on ourselves other than anybody else. But we want to be playing the best of the best, everyone in Division 1 is the best so I don't think it would really matter.

"But obviously from a spectacle point of view, people would like Kerry-Dublin but we won't mind if it's anyone else, as long as we're in a league final. Hopefully we can get over the next game or two to cement that."

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