Just when you think things are taking a turn for the better, you get hit with a curveball.
Maybe us Kildare fans were basking too much after defeating Dublin, Donegal and Cork. Things were almost running too smoothly.
It’s not that the loss of Gary White has suddenly derailed the team but his absence will be felt just as his presence was beginning to tell these past few weeks. It seems a little cruel on a player who has endured such a frustrating spell in the county jersey since graduating from the under-21 ranks that just as he’s beginning to make hay with the seniors, he has to pack away his football boots again before the sun comes out.
The call of army duty has taken football men from these plains before so as a county we’re accustomed to the upheaval. In fact we should be grateful to have and have had so many fine soldiers carry our colours into battle. It is something that we do not celebrate more and given the close ties between the military and Kildare, it would be nice to see a greater appreciation of the Defence Forces at sporting occasions. It is something that always strikes you when watching American sport.
In White’s case, he is coming off a brilliant season with his club and is arguably playing the best football of his career the last six months. He was awesome with the under-21s when they reached the All-Ireland Final in 2008, and I for one will forever cherish the display he gave against Down in, the semi-final but it has taken him far longer than expected to make the transition to senior inter-county. With his robust style and fine skills, it seemed he would become a permanent feature of the senior side sooner rather than later. As the seasons wore on, you began to wonder what was holding him back.
No doubt he was frustrated by the lack of opportunities but his performances in a white jersey were not as convincing as when he was captaining the 21s. Maybe he needed to be entrusted with a central role and a commanding position within the team structure because he looked out of sorts in his bit-part role in the corner and at the side of the defence.
With an extended run at midfield since the start of the year, that central role finally seemed to be his if he could grasp it. His defensive skills were being utilised as he sat in front of the half-back line while his ability to pick passes and carry the ball forward were also exploited by occupying that role. Against Cork in the last round of the league, he became more and more effective as the game wore on and you could only imagine where his game might be at the end of seven testing league encounters.
Now that chance has been taken from him by the call of a higher power. He knew this day was coming from the moment he entered the cadets but it must have been extremely hard to keep playing and training over the last few months with this tour of duty hanging over him. It probably says all you need to know about his character that he was able to give so much to the county side when he knew that it was unlikely he’d be around for the summer.
It’s no wonder his manager was describing him as his kind of player last week. Any manager, any team and any county would want a man like that in their ranks.
Lilies right not to play inter-pros
It’s funny the things that can exercise people. No one wants to go and see the inter-provincial games anymore but they still expect the players to turn up year after year.
Is there not enough demands placed on our best players without asking them to tog out for an outdated competition in the middle of a heavy league campaign? And is February really the best time to showcase the game’s best players for a competition the GAA supposedly want to revive?
Kildare’s players were right not to make themselves available for this year’s inter-pros. They have a hard enough time trying to line out with their clubs as it is. So far this year, in some of the worst conditions they’ll face, Kildare’s players have played on six consecutive weekends with a midweek game in early January thrown in for good measure. Not to mention whatever college and under-21 commitments the younger players have.
I mean how serious is the GAA about tackling burnout and how serious are they about the interpros when they shove it into a two-week gap between rounds two and three of the league? If the GAA really want to resurrect the Railway Cup competitions then put them on before the All-Ireland Finals. Otherwise it’s a waste of everybody’s time.