No regrets: White rules out Louth return
American adventure helps heal scars of Leinster final
BRIAN WHITE takes a deep breath and sighs down the phone line from Boston at the inevitable question.
"I've spoken about this a thousand times," he says wearily of last year's Leinster final. But reaching deep into a part of his memory that he doesn't particularly want to access, he obliges.
"I was about 30 yards out the field and when the ball went in, I knew straight away it was wrong. I was totally numb I suppose. Just numb. Then I was thinking, 'the referee has to do something here'. We all know he didn't."
And when news that Louth had been paired against Meath in the qualifiers filtered through to the other side of the world, he smiled to himself.
"I have spoken to a few of the Louth lads since the draw and can honestly say last year isn't an issue for them. It has been parked," he says.
In the weeks before he left Louth for Australia last January, the Leinster final remained stored on his Sky plus box on the Cooley peninsula, unwatched. His decision to see some of the world fulfilled a long-term ambition.
He travelled Down Under with fellow Louth footballers Mick Fanning and John O'Brien, who moved on to the US in March while White stayed behind.
Over Skype and a few emails, White discovered that Fanning and O'Brien were heading back to team up with Louth for the summer. Realising that the Wee County had a decent chance of reaching another Leinster final, he agonised over the decision.
Eventually, he decided to stick to his guns and carry on with plans to visit Boston for a summer of football.
"I was very close to going back," admits the 25-year-old. "First of all I thought the lads were winding me up, then I got talking to one of the selectors at home and realised it was true.
"I suppose coming home for football was always in the back of your head. I was doing some fitness work on my own in Australia.
"I played a bit of Australian Rules too with a local club just to try and keep my options open. But in reality, the training you do on your own is nowhere near what you'd need to be at to slip into county football."
Last year, White formed a midfield partnership with All Star Paddy Keenan that laid the foundation for much of Louth's success. His talent was long known around the county after his soccer exploits as a youngster in the Milk Cup and his performances for Cooley Kickhams in the club championship, but it was only last summer's displays that thrust him into the national consciousness.
So when he left these shores, it was newsworthy well beyond the borders of Louth. He was still in Australia when he heard Carlow had edged the Wee men out, but he suspects he knows what went wrong. The favourites tag and the weight of expectation hung heavily around Louth's neck.
"After our performances last year and the way the draw fell in Leinster with Meath, Dublin and Kildare all on the same side, there was going to be great expectation in Louth and probably rightly so too," says White.
"When you're expected to win it is very dangerous territory. People always say that you take it one day at a time but it's so easy to get ahead of yourself.
"Even when I was thinking of coming home, I was asking myself what sort of shape I could get myself into for a Leinster semi-final. I hadn't really thought about Carlow in the first game.
"That's just being honest. That was my mindset and it just goes to show you can never take teams for granted."
And while Louth start their back door campaign on Saturday, White will be preparing for the fourth round of the Boston senior football championship with Donegal Boston.
He has some contacts in the city from when Louth travelled there on holiday a few years ago and has had no problem settling in.
It'll be early afternoon on Saturday in Boston when they throw in at Kingspan Breffni Park. White will try to find a quiet corner, but he's still expecting someone, somewhere, to mention last year and that goal.
"It's never too long before people bring it up. But it's usually good natured," he says.
"When I decided to go away I knew I would miss days like this, but I was prepared for it. It'll be a great game but when I made the decision I knew I couldn't have any regrets."