The joke now is that it’s an injury of convenience, only at the time Gavin White certainly wasn’t laughing. Not when the risk of missing the All-Ireland football final was staring him in the face.
Late on in Kerry’s semi-final showdown against Dublin, before Seán O’Shea scored his epic winning free, White took a knock on his left knee and knew straight away something was wrong: for the fortnight before the final against Galway he was unsure it would be entirely right.
“It was a stressful two weeks all right, up in the air whether I’d be able to play or not,” he says. “After the Dublin game we came down on the bus, stopped off in Adare, it didn’t feel the best. I went for a scan, it didn’t show anything too major, but I didn’t train a whole lot, a bit on the Tuesday and Thursday beforehand, so in that way preparation wasn’t the best. I did the warm-up in Croke Park, on the Sunday, it felt fairly good, held up through the game.
“I suppose the adrenaline and the excitement and all that got me over the line. Only at the very, very end it started to give me a bit of bother, after I fisted over a point, but thankfully the game was nearly wrapped up at that stage.”
White turns 26 later this week, is entering his eighth season with Kerry, called up in 2016, having played the previous two seasons with the minor, making his debut in 2018. Given all the success with Dr Crokes during that period he’s rarely had a proper break, the knee injury is now affording him the luxury of exactly that.
“I’m not sure the club would be happy by that statement, but, yeah, I’ve never go this length of break in all my career so far. It’s been quite the opposite, since I first started with Kerry I’ve been fortunate to go on long runs with Crokes too. Hopefully I’ll see some of the benefits when I’m back on the pitch.
“There was cartilage damage there, but didn’t happen in the one go, in the Dublin game, it came over a period a time really. Against Dublin it was just the last little tear, with a substantial amount of cartilage ripped off already.
“So I was in and out of ice baths constantly, watch my sleeping and eating patterns, there were two keys things, then using the compression garments and anything else to give me some extra recovery. Being a teacher here in Killarney,I was off school by then too, so that helped as well.”
Three weeks after the final he underwent microfracture surgery to restore some cartilage yet he hasn’t worn a pair of boots or kicked a ball since the All-Ireland final. “I was on crutches for six weeks, and back in the gym after that. I’ve just started back some light running in the last week. So it’s five months now, and just taking my time. From my own point of view I’d be hoping to get some sort of league time, but if that doesn’t happen that is just the way it goes.
“I’d love to be going up to Donegal on Sunday, missed the whole club championship obviously, but it’s a funny enough old injury, I want to prolong my career as much as I can.”
Indeed his success with Crokes means he has played nearly twice as many games in the championship than in the league. He was named Kerry captain in 2019, aged only 22, and later struggled to hold down a starting place: not surprisingly he has no such worries for David Clifford, just turned 24.
“I’ve been asked that few times, but when you’re so involved you just want to do your very best for the team, so I don’t think it comes into play that much. I’d see David regularly enough, he’s teaching here in the school, and he’s strong enough upstairs to block all that out.”
White has matured considerable since then, the Kerry team too: if they needed to beef up their defence, he needed to beef up too.
“Paddy Tally definitely brought in some new ideas, and I think physically I took big learnings from that 2019 final (against Dublin). I needed to bulk up a small bit, improve on that, Jack McCaffrey gave me a bit of a runaround that day.”
Gavin White was speaking in Kerry at the launch of the Lidl Comórtas Peile Páidí Ó Sé, the 34th staging of the famed Gaelic football tournament taking place across the Dingle Peninsula from February 24th-26th, featuring 22 men’s and women’s teams from 14 counties. For more see www.Paidiose.com