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2019 All-Ireland Final Made Kerry All-Star Realise He Had To Bulk Up

Pictured are Kerry footballers Cáit Lynch and Gavin White with Comórtas chairman Pádraig Óg Ó Sé (centre) at Inch Beach in West Kerry for the launch of the Lidl Comórtas Peile Páidí Ó Sé 2023, the famed adult men’s and ladies Gaelic football club tournament which takes place from 24th to 26th February all across the Dingle Peninsula. Details on paidiose.com
By PJ Browne Updated
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A few things about the 2019 All-Ireland final made Kerry All-Star Gavin White realise aspects of his game needed to change.

"Obviously, we lost the game!" says White with a smile when asked what those things were.

"There was a notion that something had to change there. I was marking Jack McCaffrey and he gave me a bit of a runaround that day.

"You want to be winning All-Irelands, and from my point of view, I would have looked up to Jack, or the Lee Keegans of this world, and that they were at the level I wanted to get to. I'm still striving to get up there. I'm not saying I'm anywhere near it at the moment.

"It was a big thing, obviously losing it, but also seeing that I needed to perform better in every aspect of the game. I felt in the last year or two that has greatly helped.

"I suppose physically is a big thing. I took that as a big learning from the 2019 final that I needed to bulk up a small bit, and thankfully I've done that over the last couple of years, which is a huge thing.

"Every year, you go in with new ambitions and goals that you set for yourself and your own position to help Kerry get over the line.

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"It came up earlier on in a question about defensive duties. That would have been an area where I wanted to brush up myself. I would have been seen as a more attacking threat down the line. I was probably looking at my own game to see if I could brush up defensively.

"The game has gone so advanced. There are going to be holes picked in everybody. You need to be watertight there in every aspect of the game. That's the big thing I would have seen over the last couple of years, the idea of constantly looking for improvement.

"I don't think there's any such thing as the perfect player. That's the big thing: The willingness to learn every day when you go into training, or learn something new after every game and bring it into the next session. The game is evolving on a week-to-week basis, and you have to be ready for whatever is new that's coming down the track."

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24 July 2022; Cillian McDaid of Galway is tackled by Gavin White of Kerry during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Picking holes in the Kerry defence was what many teams had done with relative ease in the seasons prior to 2022. Last year saw Kerry become steelier at the back. They conceded just three goals between the league and championship. From the outside, the introduction of Tyrone man Paddy Tally was an obvious reason for Kerry's newfound meanness in defence.

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"We were leaking too much and we were aware of that ourselves, that it was something we needed to brush up ourselves," says White, speaking at the launch of the Lidl Comórtas Peile Páidí Ó Sé 2023.

"We didn’t really need the narrative to tell us otherwise. We had the firepower up top but if you could make it solid back at home that we’d go a long, long way and last year proved that I think.

"I suppose Paddy has been excellent in fairness to him. He probably has a view out there that he was more a defensive coach but he’s equally as much in the offensive game as well.

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"He’s a very modern type of coach, he brought in new ideas and maybe fixed up areas that we were working on the last couple of years and maybe twisted them a different way. But no, he’s been a huge help along with Tony and all the lads that came into the squad last year.

"We responded as a defensive group and the boys that came on as well which really helped us, especially when games are going against us. In the Dublin game it wasn’t really looking good for us there towards the end of it and that bond that was there, I don’t know what word you’d say, that kind of camaraderie in defence really helped us along.

"Probably something that was missing in the years previous and we’re very thankful that he’s involved with us again this year."

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26 June 2022; Lee Keegan of Mayo, right, is consoled by Kerry coach Paddy Tally after his side's defeat in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Kerry and Mayo at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Looking back now, White says that though he did not perhaps realise it at the time, Kerry players did have a lot of pressure on them to win Sam Maguire last year.

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"It was an unusual one," he says.

"It was just an expression of so many emotions at that final whistle it was absolutely incredible. I did an interview after the game and the question was asked of me ‘did we feel the pressure’ and I said ‘no’ at the time.

"But looking back on it there was a lot of pressure on us without even realising it because we were focused on the next training, the next gym session, the next game whatever it is. Looking back, there was obviously pressure on us, a lot of pressure over the last couple of years in that we didn’t get over the line and maybe should have in certain cases but weren’t good enough on the day.

"And again there were expectations on us to be competing at the highest level on a yearly basis and we weren’t doing that. The pressure did build up in the back of the mind and when the final whistle went it’s indescribable really there are so many emotions.

"You don’t know whether to cry or to laugh. The emotions of it, the excitement of it, seeing your parents. As the week goes on after, you get to really realise how important Kerry football is to the Kerry people. In particular, I brought the Sam Maguire to my home house and the grandparents’ house and just to have the cup on the kitchen table was beyond their wildest dreams. Moments like that are special and I will take to the grave with me."

See Also: Kerry Kid Scores Thrilling And Vital Solo Goal For UCC Freshers

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