Monday 22 July 2019

White fitting in neatly between the posts as Cork look to build on promising consistency

All-Ireland SFC Round 4 Qualifier: Cork v Laois, Saturday July 6

Mark White of Cork
Mark White of Cork

Denis Hurley

Mark White is only 21 since April, still very young for a goalkeeper, yet the Clonakilty man is in his third year on the Cork panel.

Barely out of minor when he was called up to the squad by Peadar Healy two years ago, under Ronan McCarthy White has been the first choice between the posts since the beginning of 2018 and has gone from strength to strength.

"It came as a shock really, it all just happened at once," he says. "I was called up two weeks before the Mayo game in 2017, it was just an introduction into the set-up and then I was brought in fully the year after with Ronan.

"The increase in schedule was definitely tough. You'd be in college all day and then going straight to training and not home until half past nine. It's the same as what people do when they're working so it was tough to adapt to, but it's definitely worth it in the end when you put on the jersey."

Should Cork overcome Laois in Thurles on Saturday evening, it would guarantee three more games in the Super 8s. While they put up a good showing in the Munster final against Kerry it did still end in defeat, and White is keen to emphasise that an improvement is needed.

"We set out to win," he says, "we knew that we had a good chance of winning if we played to our capabilities. It was disappointing to come away with a loss, especially as we had chances in front of goal. Our decision-making and our composure let us down, but there were a lot of positives to take from it and the mood has been good in the camp since.

"Consistency was part of our problem, going back through last year. I think we're after finding that, we've got some consistency going and we're starting to play to our potential, which is always good. We know from ourselves that if we play well we have the potential to match anyone. I think people are starting to see that now. We just have to focus on Saturday and try to put in another good performance and hopefully come out over the line against Laois."

White was a talented outfield player with Clon but those days are over now, with his future firmly pointed towards the no.1 jersey.

"I used to play outfield and then when I was twelve the Under-14 team had no goalkeeper," he says. "They put me in and it just sky-rocketed from there. My outfield days are over now, once I've passed U-21 that'll be it. It's always nice to have a change, but it's impossible once you're used to one position to switch to another so I'm happy to stay in goal with Clon."

Nowadays, it's a multi-faceted role with the importance of kickouts, but White still places a high priority on the ability to be a shot-stopper.

"I think it's 50-50," he says. "Kickouts are becoming a more important aspect but with how valuable goals are, you have to have that as well. One or two goals can kill a game."

To that end, talking to his defenders can be a valuable preventative measure.

"It's probably one of the aspects I need to sharpen up on," he says. "It's something I try to practise because the right communication can definitely eliminate some of the chances for the opposition."

Ger Kealy from Dublin is Cork's goalkeeping coach and White credits him with improvement.

"He's very good," he says, "he puts us through our paces and he's very accommodating if we need to work on something. He'll set out drills that will benefit us. I've definitely come a long way since working with him. At training it varies, but generally we train by ourselves for nearly half of it and then we'd be involved with the rest, practising one-on-ones or two-on-twos and practising kickouts."

The UCC commerce student is battling with Nemo Rangers' Micheál Martin and Chris Kelly of Éire Óg for the starting spot, but it's a rivalry he feels is beneficial for him and Cork.

"Everybody wants to play, but there's definitely strong competition between the three of us," he says. "I think you need that and I think that that's healthy, we definitely push each other and get the best out of each other."