Clonakilty and UCC shot-stopper picks up West Cork Sports Star award
MARK White doesn’t strike you as the sort of character who is weighed down by pressure.
His huge six foot four frame and broad shoulders carry whatever comes his way.
Former Clonakilty senior manager Paul Holland described White as ‘cool and calm’ with a great consistency for a guy his age. He’s still only 20 years old but he’s racking up an impressive body of work.
He was Cork’s number one last year. He has been Clon’s man between the posts since he was given his senior debut by Holland in 2016. And he was UCC’s goalkeeper as they won the Sigerson Cup in February, and it was for his role in that triumph that White picked up a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star February monthly award last week.
White acknowledges that the role of a goalkeeper has changed hugely in recent years – but he enjoys the greater responsibility that he now has.
‘The goalkeeper is now such an important part of the game,’ the third-year UCC commerce student points out.
‘In the past it was one of the less-looked at areas of the game but nowadays it’s such an important position and it has a lot more influence in the game. There is a lot more emphasis on goalkeepers. They can dictate the game now.
‘Look at the fly goalkeepers now, like in Laois and Tyrone. You see Niall Morgan coming out with the ball and kicking scores as well. That’s added another dimension to the role of a goalkeeper when they become the fifteenth man.’
White is quite comfortable coming out with the ball too. He has played outfield all the way up through his underage days with Clon. His outfield days are behind him now but he has that experience to lean on now.
‘In my own age I played outfield all the way up but when I was playing for the age above me I played in goal,’ he explains.
‘Playing outfield has stopped now. Those days are over. This was my last year at U21 and it was always the plan to stop now. I would have been outfield against O’Donovan Rossa in the recent Carbery U21A championship game but our normal goalkeeper was away that weekend so I went back in goal.
‘The difference for me between being in goal and outfield was all the running I had to do outfield! It has helped because I feel very comfortable coming out with the ball. Even if people come to challenge me I am used to that from playing outfield and I am used to moving the ball on, so it’s definitely made me a more rounded goalkeeper.’
There’s still lots to learn though, as he explains.
‘I have a few aspects that I am working on, like my shot-stopping and being more vocal and talking more.’
Those who have worked with White up along believe he has what it takes to hold on to the Cork number one jersey for years. Coming in to a struggling team brings its own pressures, as well as those as being a 20-year-old between the posts.
‘There is pressure – but you can use that pressure to drive on and continue to improve and train harder. You can use pressure in two ways. You can let it destroy you or you can use it to help you become better,’ he explains.
So far, he’s passing all his tests. White is still developing and there’s more to come.