ON SUNDAY, GAVIN White will have the unique distinction of captaining Kerry in the All-Ireland final without having played a minute of league football for the county.

The 22-year-old was called into the panel by Eamonn Fitzmaurice during the summer in 2016 and was absent for the following year’s league campaign due to Dr Crokes’ run to the All-Ireland club title.

He sat out the 2018 league with injury and missed this year’s competition because of club duties once again. 

“Yeah, 100% true. I’ve never played a league game,” he says. “Not one league game. I’ve played all the championship last year, obviously I’ve played championship this year, but yet to make my league debut so it’s something I want to do.”

The contrast with Dublin’s skipper couldn’t be more striking. Stephen Cluxton is 15 years White’s senior and has featured in every league campaign since 2002. The Parnells man also has 104 championship appearances to his name.

This will be White’s first-ever competitive game against Dublin at any level. 

“No, no, never played Dublin. I’d say maybe (the last time was) a challenge match at 16, 17 years of age.”

After struggling with an elbow injury earlier in the summer, White failed to start the semi-final win over Tyrone but was introduced at half-time for Shane Enright. The nature of Kerry’s second-half turnaround leaves White in with a good shout of starting the final.

But what about the prospect of Kerry’s captain beginning the decider on the bench? 

“Obviously everyone wants to start, but I don’t think it makes a whole pile of difference to tell you the truth if it helps Kerry to win an All Ireland you’re going to do that,” he remarks.

“If it’s starting on the first 15 or coming off the bench, you’re going to do as much as you can. From my point of view it doesn’t really matter if the manager picks me or not.

“You’re happy to be number 26 on the bench if it helps Kerry to an All Ireland title.”

Gavin White takes off against Cork.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His searing pace means mean’s likely to be employed at wing-forward pick-up Dublin speed merchant Jack McCaffrey. White is naturally a wing-back but has been used higher up the field by Peter Keane this season. 

“From my point of view I started off the championship at wing-back and wing-forward now. Just given instructions to go out there and work like a dog basically.

“Defend as much as you can, get forward as much as you can. I don’t think much has changed really. When I was playing at seven or on the half-back line my game was going forward, now I would see myself as a strong defender as well.

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“I don’t think much has changed really. I play more around the middle, everywhere really I’m kind of given the license to do a bit of everything.” 

White is fortunate to hail from a club filled with former Kerry captains. Colm Cooper skippered the Kingdom in 2011 and 2013, Eoin Brosnan did so in 2012, Fionn Fitzgerald held the honour in 2014 and Johnny Buckley led the side in 2017.

All four clubmates have provided a sounding board for White as he prepares for the biggest sporting occasion of his young life to date.

“I suppose they would have said to me one or two things. I think a lot of the things I would have gotten naturally from watching them growing up, especially having the opportunity to share a dressing room with them.

“I would have gotten a few things from them, whilst being with Gooch, with Brossy, Fionn, and Johnny was there, you kind of soak in and soak up the information that they’ve been giving to us while I was growing up on the senior team.

“Yeah look it they had a few pep talks with me, nothing major now, things I would have thought myself, there isn’t anything groundbreaking, to be honest.”

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