GAA Museum Legends Virtual Tour - Stefan White
Stefan White discusses:
- Coaching influences
- Croke Park debut
- Ulster Senior Football Championship win with Monaghan
- Louth's near misses in Leinster
By Cian O’Connell
Stefan White’s Gaelic Football career was packed with interesting stories.
From featuring as a 15 year old for Louth junior footballers at Croke Park, White’s promise and potential was well documented.
Work brought White to Castleblayney where Monaghan Championships were gleaned, but a return to Louth was always inevitable.
Good days were enjoyed, but reflecting back, White acknowledges that so many near Leinster Championship misses hurt deeply.
Ultimately, though, there was joy in the journey. Starting off kicking with his father in the back garden, White flourished to become one of the most potent forwards in the country.
“He was steeped in football,” White says about his father in a Bord Gais Energy GAA Museum Virtual Legends Tour.
“Like a lot of people his age, he had football and family, I don't know in what order. Certainly football was high on the agenda. I was predominantly right footed when I was growing up. Going back to earlier stories in the back garden, mostly on Sunday mornings, he would have had me in the back garden.
“I wouldn't have been allowed kick with my right foot, he would have emphasised kicking with my left foot. Like a lot of people starting off, I couldn't kick with my left foot. Just things like that and showing you how to catch the ball, different things, it just progressed on.”
Liam McGrath was another trainer, who assisted White significantly. “I served my time as an electrician and ended up in Castleblayney,” White adds.
“I was very lucky to be involved with high profile players, the likes of Nudie Hughes and Eamonn McEnaney. We had a man over us for quite a number of years, who was steeped in Castleblayney Faughs tradition, a man called Liam McGrath.
“He was a great reader of the game, he had an abundance of experience, he would have been to the fore at that stage from around '86 to 1991. He would have been very much an astute coach.”
White also stresses Mickey Heaney’s target setting as being critical to his development. “Mickey Heaney would have met me three or four times a week at 6am just to do shooting practice and hone in on my skills,” White remarks.
“At that stage I was in my early 20s, that would have had a huge effect on my career. One year he challenged me, we had three competitions in Louth, and he challenged me to score 20 goals and 100 points in the year. We surpassed both quantities that year, it was down to Mickey.”
The decision to play for Monaghan was a difficult one to take for White. “I was approached by Monaghan, it didn't go down well with Dad, he was a staunch Louth gael,” White reveals.
“I went in '87 and came back roughly in '89 or '90. I had great experience. At that stage Monaghan were unlucky, they had run Kerry in a couple of All Ireland semi-finals. They had won Ulster Championships, the professionalism at that time was certainly in the Monaghan camp.
“They were definitely in the top 10 which was a huge achievement for a county the size of Monaghan. Sean McCague was over them, Professor Niall Moyna was the trainer, it was the next step higher. The training and everything was done at a high level.
“The first year I played Monaghan were knocked out of the Championship by Cavan which was hard to take, the next year was hard to take more so.”
Ulster glory was eventually captured in 1988 with White still part of the Monaghan panel. “We got a run in the '88 Championship, we got to a semi-final against Down,” White recalls.
“Some of my neighbours were playing for Down, I came on as a sub. I didn't start in the Ulster Final, I was a bit disappointed. It was touch and go between myself and another panel member.
“We were playing Tyrone in the old Clones, I came on, scored a point, and helped the team win an Ulster Championship.
“It was a huge achievement for myself. We got to play against Cork, I got selected. It was disappointing because the whole team didn't perform to the capabilities that they should have.”
White returned to the red and white of Louth, forging a reputation as one of the most respected attackers in the game.
Harrowing defeats, though, brought pain. Louth were close to a real breakthrough during White’s days on the inter-county beat.
“To play in five Leinster Semi-Finals, looking back, huge disappointment,” White states. “We were probably unfortunate and it isn't an excuse, but in the provincial set-up we came up against two of the strongest teams in the country at the time, Dublin and Meath.
“We had some chances in those years, '91 we played Kildare, after beating Kildare in a quarter final, we went on to play Laois in a semi final. There was a lot of hype that we had beaten Mick O'Dwyer's men and I think Laois were waiting for us.
“Not that we took our eye off the ball, but that was certainly one that slipped through the net. Another one which hurts an awful lot was the '98 semi-final against Meath.”
White’s scores decorated so many Louth games during an eventful period.